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“It’s been 10 years,” said Eugene Simor, founder of Alamo Beer Company, “and it’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and beers.”
The San Antonio-based brewing operation celebrated its 10th anniversary at Bombay Bicycle Club on Tuesday night. The company has seen enormous growth and change throughout its decade-long existence. Many of those changes have occurred within the year.
Most recently, Simor hired John Crider as chief financial officer. “I hired him because he’s an accountant, of course,” Simor said, “But also he’s English, so he has a fine palate for beer,” he finished, laughing with Crider. The CPA didn’t object to Simor’s assessment.
James Hudec joined the team as brewmaster and director of brewing operations two months ago after consulting with Alamo for a year and a half. Previously, he served as head brewer for Gordon Biersch.
Chief operating officer Jim Walker started full time in May. He had been consulting with Simor since March 2012 and brings 30 years experience in the beer industry. Walker joked about the company’s division of labor, saying, “Eugene is the face of the company, James is the brewer, and I’m kind of the back office guy. I’m the guy behind the curtain.”
At the end of September, Simor announced that Alamo had secured a loan of $5 million from Southwest Security Group through the SBA loan program. With financing in place, construction of the brewery’s new home at long last can begin.
Plenty of brew-haha has surrounded Alamo’s plan to build on the near Eastside of downtown, close to the Hays Street Bridge. The contentious debate over the sale of a city-owned lot north of the Hays Street Bridge has been thoroughly documented on the Rivard Report (here, too) and elsewhere.
A lawsuit against the city that disputes the legality of that sale has stalled Alamo’s purchase of the property. Simor, who calls the suit “frivolous,” expects it to be dismissed by March 2014. “Pending the dismissal of the lawsuit,” Simor said, “we’ll start plans for (phase two), a retail restaurant to complete our project.”
Phase one construction will include a beer garden serviced by food trucks, a 30-barrel brewhouse, and a tasting room. Lake|Flato is designing the facility, which will be located just south of the bridge on a plot of land that Simor owns.
Original plans called for a 60-barrel brewhouse, but Simor and brewmaster Hudec both seem pleased with the decision to cut that number in half. Simor explained that the decreased number of barrels allows for smaller batches and more specialty brews. “We’ll be able to do more Alamo products that wouldn’t be on the market anywhere else,” said Hudec, such as “house beers that we’ll just have at the bar.”
Construction is slated to begin in December 2013, with a target completion date of Fall 2014. Simor estimates that the company will begin hiring additional employees in August or September of next year.
Since 2003, Real Ale Brewing Company in Blanco has brewed Alamo beer. The brewery will produce 3,000 barrels of Alamo Golden Ale this year, or 41,100 cases of beer. The new Eastside facility will boost the company’s production capabilities to 40,000 barrels of beer a year – that’s more than 500,000 cases of Golden Ale for beer lovers across Texas to enjoy.
“It seems like it was just yesterday that I was delivering beer out of the back of my car,” said Simor. A California native, Simor moved to San Antonio in the mid-90s and first contemplated starting a craft brewery in 1994. By 1997, he had brewed and sold the first batch of Alamo beer with the help of the late Frio Brewing Company.
Simor discovered the Real Ale Brewing Company in 2002 and entered into a licensing agreement with the Blanco-based brewery in 2003. By October of that year, San Antonio taps had their first taste of Alamo Golden Ale.
Originally, Alamo’s Golden Ale and Real Ale’s Fireman’s #4 Blonde Ale were the same beer, marketed in San Antonio as the former and in Austin as the latter. The formulas changed with time, and as both companies matured, the brews were intentionally differentiated. Alamo Golden Ale is now less hoppy, less sweet, and crisper than the distinct Fireman’s #4 Blond Ale.
Statewide distribution of the beer began in 2009, when Alamo struck a deal with specialty beverages distributor, the Ben E. Keith Company. Today, select stores in Austin, Houston, and the Rio Grande Valley sell Alamo.
The familiar mustard yellow label of Alamo beer is a frequent sight at many non-profit events in San Antonio. Last year, Simor estimates that the company donated $15-20,000 of product to 501(c)(3) organizations through event sponsorships.
“I think we’ve really become a player in the Texas market and in the craft brewing industry,” concluded Simor. And his future aspirations for Alamo? “We really should grow it to become the new national beer of Texas.”
Miriam Sitz is a freelance writer in San Antonio. A graduate of Trinity University, she blogs on Miriam210.com and sells handmade goods on TinderboxGoods.com. Follow her on Twitter at @miriamsitz. Click here for more stories from Miriam Sitz on the Rivard Report.