The Big Texan Brewery starting serving hand craft beers June 24, 2011 after a lengthy process of paperwork with the “Feds” or TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) and the TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission). The amount of work that was needed to put a dream into reality started decades ago and many miles apart between Tom Money (Brewmaster) and the Lee Brother’s (Bobby & Danny) who are second generation owners of the Big Texan Steak Ranch.
Starting back in 1988, Danny was teaming up with buddies on the weekends brewing beer in backyards and cracking open many new taste that were unavailable to the general public. Meanwhile Bobby, the prodigy mastermind behind the Big Texan’s promotional engine had been encouraging his brother to continue the tradition of brewing only this time for the Big Texan’s patrons, and not just as a hobby either. Theses conversations went on for years and years, UNTIL January of 2011 when a friend of the family told the Lee Boy’s that his brother Tom, who also brewed beer at home for a hobby, wanted to be a Brewmaster for their world famous steak house. Tom was looking for an introduction and a foot in the door.
After the handshakes, formalities, some heavy sampling and lots of BS’ing, the concept of the Big Texan Brewery was well under way to becoming a reality. Along came the long process of applications & forms, trial & error, recipes, remodeling, purchasing, construction, moving this to there, testing and testing and more testing. Tom had his favorites and Danny had his, and then there were the ones that breweries “were suppose to offer” such as the Ambers, Reds, Bocks, and IPA’s.
Finally, after what seemed forever, the notice from the Fed’s that a license to brew and sell beer was approved and now issued! Thanks to our former President Jimmy Carter for paving the road for handcraft beer making. After 24-years, our hobbies were now memories and the real work was about to begin. We could drink all the handcrafted we wanted, and sell the rest! Ahhhh-ah, life is good!
Making beer is basically a very simple process. All you need according to German Law was 4 – ingredients: Water, malted Barley, Hops, and yeast.
You ferment in water the starchy barley for the yeast to eat on producing CO2 and alcohol. The hops balance the sweet barley and help with preserving. Pretty simple, even a cave man could do it; hence some of the earliest recipes were for making beer.
The complexity in making beer is in the different varieties of ingredients, styles, yeast, and even the water source that is used. Temperatures of the fermentation room, the outside or even the temperature of the Brewmaster will make a difference in the final beer products. (It’s very important to keep your Brewmaster happy.)
Speaking of our Brewmaster, Tom will come in with an ideal of something he tried or read about. We’ll talk about it, and generally agree on either a small batch (such as 5-gallons or so) or we’ll go ahead with a big batch (90-gallons or so) if it a variation on something we have already brewed before and want to adjust a recipe. Our pattern is read, brew, taste, brew, taste, brew … and so on. What we have ended up with is about 10-beers on tap (some we keep in the back room, private reserve if you know what we mean) that reflect what our handcraft beer drinking guests like. Contrary to popular belief, beer does in some respect, get better with age. Our handcraft beers are un-pasteurized, unfiltered and aged in 34ºF coolers for sometimes many months. This differs from the myths that the “Big Boys” born on date promotes.
Most of today’s bottled beers are pasteurized and come from the big manufactures like Bud, Miller, Coors or the BMC us home brewers refer to them as. These were breweries that were carryovers from the time of prohibition and serve the public well in certain areas. Coors Light is great at the Monster Truck Race or a Bud taste good when you’re at a NASCAR track. But when you’re at a world famous steak ranch like the Big Texan, and getting ready to sink your teeth into a juicy 72oz steak that’s in front of you, Miller Lite’s advertisements for their “style of bottle” is not going to cut it.
Instead, try a Rattlesnake India Pale Ale or a Texas Red Ale on for size. Kind‘a like; you put hot cream gravy on a chicken fried steak, not hot milk. So save the milk for the race track and give your mouth a real treat.
Our beer brewing process has been simply taking the art of home brewing to the quantities needed to service a restaurant that serves almost 500,000 guests a year. This is where all of the experiences of running a large restaurant come into play, yet being conservative enough to keep startup cost reasonable.
We knew we did not have the space in our waiting/bar area. We already were maxed out there. We had even moved our men’s restroom out of the area to make room for our keg serving room and sweet shop. We do have a store room out back that is an old truck trailer that had the wheels removed and placed on the ground. It was a refrigerated trailer meaning that it was well insulated already. Since it would “be out back” it didn’t have to be fancy, nor did we need to buy the super expensive, stainless steel fermentation tanks but instead 115-gallon plastic conical tanks that were 1/10th the cost.