By: FW Mag Staff
By: Scott Nishimura1
By: Courtney Dabney
They all like to cook. They all built their own breweries. And they’re all good friends. Meet three men who launched craft beer companies in Fort Worth and discover how they’re pushing the boundaries of brewing with imagination, passion — and just a little bit of obsession.
The Collective Brewing Project
Step inside The Collective Brewing Project, and you’re greeted by a 10-foot-tall wooden barrel draped with an American flag. The massive barrel is a foeder (pronounced “FOOD-er”) from Napa Valley, an oak tank traditionally used for aging red and white wine. But here they’re used for aging beer. There are four more in the back, along with dozens of wine barrels and oak tanks from France.
“Barrel and foeder aging is a large portion of what we do here,” says 38-year-old Ryan Deyo, the brewery’s co-founder and a full-time Fort Worth firefighter. “It sets us apart from most of the breweries in the state.” The Collective Brewing Project has earned a reputation for its sour and funky beers, old-world styles that are enhanced by the ancient technique of wood aging. Wood aging gives beer character (with tannins and residual flavors) and culture (with yeast and bacteria harbored in the woodgrain). Tiny bits of oxygen seep through the barrels and stimulate chemical reactions. The result is a beer of deeply complex flavor, mouthfeel and body.
Using a foeder in your brewery requires finesse and ingenuity — but first, you have to get it through the door. Deyo’s firefighting skills come into play when it’s time to move one of the 2,500-pound giants. “I’m a technical rescue technician, so I’m trained in rope rescue, confined spaces and structural collapse. All these things that involve lifting and moving big, heavy objects have come in handy when moving new tanks and tilting them up.” His hazmat training helps him manage the brewery’s tank-cleaning chemicals, and experience on the firetrucks gives him a working knowledge of plumbing and pumps. And knowing how to navigate through the red tape at city hall was definitely helpful when Deyo first opened the brewery with co-founder Mike Goldfuss in 2014.
Deyo and Goldfuss have been best friends ever since they met as high school freshmen in Southlake. “We got in trouble together,” Deyo recalls. “It was not cool trouble. We were dorks, and we just irritated our teachers.” He often traveled to Fort Worth for meetings of the Young Magicians Club and to hang out on Magnolia Avenue. After college together, Goldfuss took a job in New York and an interest in microbrews. Soon Deyo started sipping craft beers as well. “I’m the kind of person that wants to know all about what I’m doing,” he says. “I tend to obsess over whatever I’m learning at that point, and learning about the beer was the next logical step to drinking it. Then after that, I had to homebrew.” The two friends began homebrewing together whenever Goldfuss would visit.
“[Homebrewing] is like small-scale manufacturing,” Deyo explains. “It’s really expressive but can be super technical. If you like machinery and gadgets and hard numbers and using science to make something beautiful, it’s a really cool hobby. And it’s as deep a rabbit hole as you want to go. I love gadgets and building things, so that’s what attracted me to it. And the beer,” he admits. “It’s nice to have beer at the end of it.” A fortuitous trip to Denver’s Great American Beer Festival spawned the friends’ idea for The Collective Brewing Project. “We had a blast. We were very deep into enjoying ourselves and were like: ‘We have to do this.’” What began as a beer-fueled fantasy became real enough three months later when Goldfuss quit his New York job and moved back to Texas to launch the brewery.
The two volunteered at Martin House Brewing Company to learn the ropes from Cody Martin and David Wedemeier. “We went to this homebrewing event and [Cody] and David were pouring beers, and we pretty much forced ourselves on those two guys,” Deyo says. He offered to work at Martin House for free, and he did. He took out the trash and cleaned the bathrooms while learning how to operate the industrial machinery — and discovering just how much work it is to run a startup brewery.
Construction on his own brewery began, and after a “long summer of sweating,” The Collective Brewing Project opened its doors. “We built most of this ourselves,” says Deyo. “There have been all sorts of surprises … things that you didn’t think could break will break. But ultimately, each struggle is mine, which makes it better, if that makes sense.”
The Southside brewery quickly became known for its funky and sour beers. Its most popular beer is the Petite Golden Sour, but its most famous is the Cup O’ Beer — a gose brewed with 55 pounds of ramen noodles, whose release went viral across the foodie world. Another internet hit was Peep This Collab, a glittery purple ale made with sugar-coated Easter marshmallows. Nostalgia inspires many of the brewery’s out-there beers, which have been made with dreamsicles, churros and milkshakes.
“That’s largely how we design … food and good memories,” Deyo says. “And we’re collaborative here. I design most of the recipes, but everything’s roundtable.” Many of the brewery’s nine employees have strong culinary backgrounds, including Deyo, who cooks at his firehouse. “I really love cooking Mexican food … if I could eat a taco every meal of every day, I think I’d be okay with that,” he laughs. The brewery hosts frequent pop-up dinners with Texas chefs, pairing its beer with everything from dumplings to biscuits and barbecue.
The Collective Brewing Project will soon produce its first lager, and this summer you’ll be able to find cans of their IPA and the fruity, hoppy Tropsicle. For Ryan Deyo, he’ll happily continue down the craft beer rabbit hole. “It’s really fun,” he says. “We just do what we do and hope that people like what we do, too.”
HopFusion Ale Works
Music blasts over the picnic tables, bicycles hang from the ceiling and graffiti art colors the walls at HopFusion Ale Works. A giant projection screen covers one end of the taproom next to several shelves of board games. Guys with beards wander up to the bar to try the banana pudding brew, a silky golden beer with whipped cream and crushed vanilla wafers on the rim. Girlfriends sip multicolored flights of beer on the patio and play Connect Four.
“It’s all about the experience,” says Macy Moore, who co-founded the brewery with his friend, Matt Hill. “It’s everything else around the beer that matters to us — friends and dogs and music and art. That’s what Matt and I talked about the very first night.”
Once upon a late-night bike ride in 2015, Moore and Hill sparked the idea of opening up a brewery during a refreshment stop at Malone’s Pub. “It was a very naïve moment,” Moore laughs. “We thought we were pretty informed on what it would take … but we had no idea what the statement ‘let’s open up a brewery’ would actually mean. It was very, very hard.” Both of the bicyclists had been homebrewing for years. At first, brewing was a mystery to Moore. “I thought it was like a black science, like some magic … I heard that people were homebrewing in their bathtubs — this is years and years ago — and I didn’t know what the hell that meant. I thought it sounded really nasty.”
But homebrewing just clicked for Moore, who likens the skill to smoking meat. “It takes a lot of prep, time, patience and knowing what it’s going to be at the very end, even though that’s not what it is at the beginning. When I smoke meat, it feels like it’s the same process,” he says. “So, if you’re a good barbecuer, a good smoker, you probably could make really good beer.”
Not long after that fateful night, RadioShack laid off Moore after 23 years at his job in downtown Fort Worth. Moore and Hill kicked their plans into high gear. They helped at local breweries, including Martin House and Collective Brewing, and looked for a space in the perfect location — just a bike ride away from their homes. Craft beer and bike riding are undeniably linked for Moore. “They come from the same place for me,” he says. It’s a place centered around friends and community, around slowing down and connecting with the true vibe of the city. “It’s liberating.”
The two bicyclists found “an old run-down, horrible warehouse” on the Southside for their brewery. “When we got here, it was all barbed wire and fences, with concertina wire on the top all the way around,” Moore recalls. “It was still pretty rough to be here at night.” It took about two years to transform the space into a brewery. They incorporated several elements of the site’s original character, including street art style and that wire-topped fence, which now separates the taproom and the brewery.
“About 95 percent of it was done by us and a bunch of friends,” reveals Moore. Hill, who has experience as a mechanic and welder, created the bar and all the metalwork. Moore added most of the taproom’s graffiti, drawing from his art school background in graphic design. “I love to paint,” he confides. “I’m a wannabe modern impressionistic painter … I love that freedom.”
An artist at heart, Moore takes a novel approach to inventing new recipes at the brewery. “I think about the color of the beer first. That to me is really, really important. You taste food visually, and beer is no different to me.”
But Moore’s not the only one who’s coming up with recipes. Unlike most breweries, HopFusion doesn’t have a brewmaster. Brewmasters typically “dictate the style or recipe that’s going to be created, and then the brewers go create that. Here we don’t do that … everybody has an input,” he explains. “Everyone has their own style that they like to brew or drink,” from the bartenders to the workers in the back. Even Moore and Hill have very different tastes in beer: light and fruity versus dark and strong. “It keeps things really diverse … I think that’s very unique, and that makes us what we are.”
This fusion of different ideas and the connection of different people form the core of the brewery’s identity. “Craft beer for us is the people that work here, who are frickin’ amazing,” Moore says. “They care about this place almost as much as we do … they’re the biggest part of it.” Taproom guests are connected too; the brewery’s “open kitchen” design reveals the beer chefs at work in the back — if they’re not already in the bar pouring pints. “In most cases, the person telling you about that beer is the person who made that beer.”
Many times, it’s Moore himself. And some of his favorite customers are the ones who say they don’t like beer. “I absolutely love that … I’ll take them to the end of the bar, and we’ll go through everything. I’ll take them in the back and show them how we make it.” He lines up dozens of samples and mixes beers together until they find the right style. “We’ll figure out what works … that to me is the coolest thing.”
The taproom launches a new limited-release brew every Thursday, like the banana pudding beer (a collaboration between HopFusion, Martin House, Ellerbe Fine Foods and the Fort Worth Food & Wine Festival). On Fridays and Saturdays, beer drinkers will find live music and a new infusion to try. From beer yoga to board game nights and kettlebell workouts to karaoke, there’s always something going on at this Southside hangout. That includes the rapid growth of their neighborhood, where dozens of new businesses are opening up — including new bars and breweries.
“We welcome that. We help them,” Moore says. “Beer begets beer. Have a beer here, walk up the street, have a beer, walk over to Collective, have a beer, go to Rahr … it’s a destination.” Even more than a destination, Fort Worth’s craft beer scene is a community and a home for Macy Moore. “It’s my world.”
Martin House Brewing Company
What’s new? That’s the question Cody Martin kept hearing from the customers who drank his beers and the bars that served them. They constantly wanted something new — so Martin House Brewing Company gave it to them, launching a deluge of microseasonals.
“We’ll make 150 recipes this year,” says 36-year-old Martin, the brewery’s co-founder and head brewer. “That’s something no one else has even come close to doing.” Every six weeks, Martin House produces five new microseasonals that are canned, kegged and distributed throughout Texas. They also invent another one or two new recipes to serve in their taproom, plus a few more test batches just for fun. “We’re really branching out and doing stuff we’ve never done before.”
Mango habanero, bread pudding, spicy tamarindo, Earl Grey and lavender — the extensive brew list is part foodie, part mad scientist and part “logistical nightmare,” Martin confides. “We’re planning two years in advance so that we can figure out the recipes, get the artwork and order the cans. Every time these beers come out on time, it’s a miracle.”
The miracle workers at Martin House include co-founders David Wedemeier (Martin’s business-savvy friend from UT Dallas) and Adam Myers (an engineering buddy with construction experience). One of Martin’s brothers works as a sales rep, and the other provides legal advice. Most of his friends work at the brewery too. “Every time I make a new friend, I hire them,” he laughs. “Everyone that works here is part of the family.”
The brewery’s mascot is the purple martin, one of the only birds that lives in family groups. Cody experienced the martin lifestyle for himself when he first arrived in Fort Worth to open the brewery. He and his wife, Anna, moved in with Wedemeier and his wife, who were already living with another couple. “There were three adult couples in this house, two dogs and a one-legged parrot,” he recalls. “It was crazy. I built a little test batch system in the back garage, and everyone would be sitting there watching ‘Game of Thrones’ in the living room at night, and I’d have beer hoses running back and forth into the fermenters inside the fridges.”
Prior to moving back to Texas, Martin had followed Anna to Latin America before getting married and buying a house in Florida. There, his interest in homebrewing finally had the space it needed to metastasize into an obsession, and he turned their garage into a brewery. “Brewing your own beer is a perfect marriage of engineering and art,” he explains. “That’s what drew me to it. There’s a lot of science and process and equipment, but you’re also using really crazy ingredients and doing whatever you can to come up with these really creative ideas.”
His job as an environmental engineer involved much of the same equipment as homebrewing, and his skills advanced quickly. Soon he felt ready to take the plunge and start a brewing company. “I told my wife — asked my wife — if I could quit my job. Luckily, she has a great job; if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have been able to quit engineering,” he admits. “She believed in me the whole time.”
Martin quit his job in Florida in November 2011, and Martin House Brewing Company sold its first beer in March 2013. “We built this place from the ground up,” Martin says, doing everything from the plumbing trenches to the research and paperwork. “It’s something we’re pretty proud of — the fact that we were able to put a business plan together and raise money so quickly when we really had no experience.”
Martin House Brewing Company is now firmly established as a cornerstone of craft beer culture in Fort Worth. Five dozen employees work at the brewery and its new taproom, which opened last summer and will host a Sour Fest on May 11. Martin has witnessed the city’s brewing scene evolve — and the competition multiply. But a spirit of cooperation still prevails. “It’s kind of like all of us against the big guys,” he says. “It’s a really personal community here. Everyone’s super proud to be from Fort Worth, and they’re super proud to have Fort Worth products. I think that really goes a long way.”
Martin’s family has multiplied as well and now includes a 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old twins. He also bikes and squeezes in ultra-marathons when he can, all while producing 150 beers per year. And there’s no slowing down, he says. “I still have 100 ideas I haven’t tried.”
By: FW Mag Staff
By: Scott Nishimura1
By: Courtney Dabney