FEATURED ARTIST | SEPTEMBER 2013
Bio: Gary's fusion of passion and experience in leadership and development has now led to the birth of Grapevine Craft Brewery. The desire to start a brewery begins with great beer, but for Gary it doesn't stop there. With a background in working in the church/non-profit environment, Gary is passionate about making a difference in his community and creatively leveraging the success of GCB to impact North Texas. As you would have it, the dream of GCB all started in a garage on a Saturday afternoon homebrewing a batch of beer. And with a passion for craft beer and a love of the Grapevine community, Grapevine Craft Brewery just made sense. Gary's experience in brand management, team development and fundraising gave him the tools needed to turn this dream into a reality. Tell us about your latest brainchild, Grapevine Craft Brewery.
It’s about beer. It’s about community. It’s about mission. I wanted to do something that would engage enthusiasts, but also engage people that live in our surrounding areas. There’s no doubt that right now in North Texas it is a great time for craft beer. And having yet another local option is not a bad thing. But I believe that Grapevine is unique and I’m just as excited about building the brand as I am putting out great beer. It was also equally important to put something forward that would give people an opportunity to be part of a mission. Marry drinking great beer together with giving back to your community in a meaningful way….that’s a hard combination to beat.
Hometown: Abbeville, Louisiana
Current City: Grapevine, Texas
AHD: What helped you to go from craft-beer enthusiast to founder and CEO of a craft-beer startup?
GH: Truthfully, people that believed in what I was doing and could write a check to back it up. Not only was I able to raise the cash necessary to start the business through investment, but people in the community also stepped up in a big way. We had an audacious goal to raise $50,000 online and ended up raising over $61,000. GCB is only the second brewery to top $60K in crowdfunding. Beyond that, two local banks, Northstar Bank of Texas and Bank of the West in Grapevine have both stepped up to help finance our business and the construction of our new brewery one block off of Main Street in Grapevine. For a startup….that’s unheard of.
AHD: The South has been called the last craft-beer frontier. How did you choose historic downtown Grapevine, Texas as home to the next great local craft brewery?
GH: It just makes sense. Grapevine is a North Texas destination for both locals and out of town guests. Also, DFW Airport is located in Grapevine. It’s a hub for travelers and an easy place to connect with family, business partners or hanging out with friends. And while Grapevine has one of the most vibrant Main Streets in North Texas (and perhaps the US), it continues to grow in commerce and boasts a wealth of opportunity for big and small businesses. Not to mention, Grapevine has the most wineries per capita in the state of Texas. Local craft beer belongs here.
AHD: Grapevine Craft Brewery's philosophy starts and ends with community. What do you mean when you say "beer is an expression of community?"
GH: Beer was always local. Literally as local as the street corner. Before pasteurization, beer would spoil in a little over a day. It could not travel. So, your beer was brewed just around the corner. And if you wanted another beer, then you had to travel to the next local brewery. People took pride in their local brew and it was a part of what made their community their own. Today, everything spreads far and wide and most products are made for mass markets with no local identity. It’s not hard to see that people today crave something local, not just beer, but in everything we use and consume. It’s a great thing to get to know the brewer who made the beer you’re drinking and that he or she cares about a lot of same things you care about. That’s community.
AHD: GCB boasts four initial offerings: Lakefire, an American rye pale ale, Monarch a classic American wheat, Sir Williams, a traditional English style brown, and Nightwatch, a classic sweet stout. Can you explain how each of your brews has a local tie-in? And of course, which is your favorite?
GH: Every summer, we celebrate Friday nights with fireworks over Lake Grapevine. So, the Lakefire was born. In early Spring, Grapevine, Texas is in the migratory path of the monarch butterfly. And that’s perfect timing for the crisp and refreshing Monarch Wheat. Our mayor, William D. Tate has been the mayor of Grapevine for almost 40 years. It’s about time the guy had his own beer, the Sir Williams English Brown Ale. And last but not least, Grapevine history reveals that there was a nightwatchman that would walk the length of Main Street to make sure that everything was safe and locked up in the evenings. He was faithful, dependable and reliable and is now enshrined atop our city hall building. We remember those long nights with the Nightwatch Dry Oatmeal Stout.
AHD: Your startup was successfully crowd funded through Fundable.com. What made your campaign successful, and what do you recommend to other adventurous entrepreneurs eager to try the same model?
GH: Have a story. Story and mission are so important even for a successful business. I see people miss it all the time. Especially if you’re going to ask for someone’s support, you have to give them a better reason than your product alone, no matter how great it is.
AHD: How do you balance life as a busy entrepreneur, a wife and two young kids? What intentional steps have you taken to ensure that quality and time still exists at home and with family?
GH: I have to be the master of my schedule and I have to be an expert at saying no. To be honest, this balance is extremely difficult. We are in the thick of it. With me starting a business and my wife looking after a 2 year old and a 6 month old, time for us is hard to come by. Especially since we have no family in North Texas. We have to keep telling ourselves, "it gets better."
But, baby steps, right? This past weekend, we successfully went out to dinner as a family. The kids went to bed perfectly and my wife and I were able to watch a movie together on the couch. And the next morning I was able to watch the kids while Andrea went out for a latte' and a massage. So, there are moments of sanity….dare I say, calm. The bottom line is that every moment counts, even if it's just 10 minutes. Opening a brewery, there will be plenty of opportunity for me to be busy at evening events, Saturday tours and the like. But I try pretty hard at leaving nights open for my kids and weekends for the family. For something work related, it has to be extraordinarily important for me to give up an evening with my boys. Basically, I get 5pm to 8pm with them and that time is sacred. I've had to practice putting off the late meetings and things that can't wait at least until after I help put my boys to bed.
These are just some of the practical things. But at a 30,000 foot level, you simply have to determine what is most important. Business will never be my master. It will always serve my family.
AHD: You plan to return proceeds to your community each quarter. Why is it important to give back, and what do you think would happen if other artisans followed suit?
GH: It’s critical. Let’s face it, who else is buying my beer, helping me to build a successful business and take care of my family? It’s the community. And I feel an obligation to give back and take care of my own. If we all had the mindset to look outside of ourselves and help those around us, we’d all be better off, no doubt. My hope is that we make enough of a difference that others would follow suit. It’s worth it.
AHD: How can we keep up to date with happenings and taste your brews as they come available on tap this fall?