If there ever were easy years for Fort Worth’s breweries, those days are gone. Rahr & Sons founder Fritz Rahr had the then-difficult job of explaining how small-batch beers were better in quality than corporate brews to restaurant owners 14 years ago. Now, Fort Worthians more or less get it, and the market for local grows tighter with each passing year.
Stuart and Allyssa Maples are joining the party, anyway. The founding couple behind Maple Branch Craft Brewery recently sat down for a chat at their brewpub/biergarten that’s slated to open in the Foundry District this spring. The young TCU grads said there’s still plenty of room for growth for brewpubs that cater to specific neighborhoods and districts. The trick, they said, is for those businesses to focus on what craft beer breweries have always been best at — being community gathering spots for locals of all ages to get together and unwind over a pint of locally made ale.
“There’s still a big market for local beer,” Stuart said. “This will be a place where you can bring your kids and sit here all day. We think Texas is still further behind” the country in terms of craft beer breweries per state resident.
Texans drink a lot of beer, but the Lone Star State still ranks near the bottom (46th) in breweries per capita, according to the national trade group Brewers Association.
“We want people to be able to disconnect and leave whatever is going outside and have a good time,” Allyssa said.
Maple Branch promises to have something for everyone. The indoor space will seat around 150, they said, while the outdoor biergarten will hold up to 200 folks. Outdoor seating, games, a stage for live music, a fire pit, a shade tree, and a water fountain will make the sprawling outdoor patio a popular destination for families. The rotating selection of beers will be chosen, in part, by patrons. Stuart said visitors will be able to vote on their favorite beer by dropping a special chip into large jars that are labeled with potential new releases. There will also be a special Mug Club that offers specials and the opportunity to vote on unique beer releases each month. Stuart and Allyssa opted for a brewpub license so they can please the masses with offerings of wine, cider, and hard seltzer as well as beer.
Stuart said the brewery’s modest-sized five-barrel brewing system will allow the brewpub to “pivot” toward a wide variety of beer styles. By releasing 10-keg batches in the taproom, there will also be a level of scarcity that will encourage beer fans to try popular brews before they run out. As far as the beer options, Stuart and Allyssa plan to keep 24 beers on tap that include seasonals, true-to-style favorites, and quirky one-offs. Stuart, who is a certified beer judge, has brewed every beer in the Beer Judge Certification Program. He thinks locals will dig his award-winning Czech premium lager and Russian Imperial Stout. Pumpkin beers, hazy IPAs, spiced beers — everything is on the table, he said.
“We will find a balance between what’s trending and what’s good,” Allyssa said. “We want it to be high-quality beer.”
Stuart and Allyssa are optimistic about their chances of keeping construction on time and on budget. Stuart brings a background in finance and real estate to the venture while Allyssa has a degree in marketing. They’ve zealously crunched numbers and run predictions to ensure that construction ends with a large grand opening party late next spring. When they do open, they will be joining a crowded but rich field of local breweries and brewpubs. The duo doesn’t see hotspots like Martin House Brewing Company and HopFusion Aleworks as competition. After a spotty past, Fort Worth’s brew scene is filling in to meet the communal needs of Fort Worth’s residents.
There was a blitz early on, Stuart said, referring to the long honeymoons that Fort Worth’s first breweries enjoyed. There will be cycles of decline and regrowth, he added.
“That’s what converting people to craft beer is all about,” he said. “That shelf space [in retail stores] is getting more crowded. We’re trying to plan ahead for when it gets tighter. This will be a place to come get a fresh beer and hang out. If you live nearby, why wouldn’t you come to us?”