Neither hell, high water nor near-freezing temperatures could derail the Alamo Beer Company groundbreaking this morning. “I’ve waited so long to kick this thing off,” founder Eugene Simor told the Rivard Report by phone on Thursday. “I don’t care if it snows a foot tomorrow – we’re having this groundbreaking!”
Not only does today represent a major step forward for the 10-year old Alamo Beer Co. – it’s Simor’s 51st birthday.
Construction on the $8 million, 18,000-square-foot brewery project begins today and, according to Simor, should last eight months. The first phase will include a 30-barrel brewhouse, a beer garden serviced by food trucks and a tasting room.
In addition to Simor, Texas State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-123, South Texas Regional President Mark Koshnick of Southwest Securities FSB, and District 2 City Councilwoman Ivy R. Taylor spoke at the groundbreaking.
Villarreal thanked Simor for starting a “revolution” in bringing development to the Eastside. Koshnick called the project “truly transformational” to the area and Taylor, a resident of Dignowity Hill, had this to say: “I’m not a beer drinker, but when this thing is finished, I’m going to drink a beer!”
Taylor mentioned the possibility of incentivized retail space near the Alamo Beer complex, $2.6 million in bond money for improvements to Cherry Street and the development of town homes and other nearby residential properties as positive indicators for the area’s future.
Alamo Beer's plan to build next to the bridge on the near-Eastside of downtown has not been met with unanimous acceptance. 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), in City Council minutes, and elsewhere.
"The case is scheduled for a hearing in front of a judge on the first Monday in March," said Simor, "and that should lead to a final decision on whether we can begin phase two,” which would include a restaurant.
Rather than the literal breaking of any ground, the ceremony concluded with a keg pull. Led by Simor, the guests of honor assembled by a large mound of mulch, grabbed hold of a rope and in one smooth yank unearthed a buried keg of Alamo Beer.
In the future, Alamo Beer aficionados can expect to see more of the staple Alamo Golden Ale, in addition to a lager and a seasonal brew. Alamo Beer produces around 3,000 barrels a year now. With the opening of the new brewery, that number will jump to 6,000 and continue to rise as production ramps up.
Other pending developments that Simor hopes to see, if the transfer of City land occurs, include patio dining on the bridge and improvements to the area underneath the historic structure.
“The space below the bridge will become a large outdoor gathering area with horseshoes, washers, a small stage, possibly a children’s play area and other public amenities,” Simor told the Rivard Report.
“We’ve still got some final decisions to make on landscaping and other operational details, like what the hours will be for the beer hall and beer garden, but the architectural side of things is set and already permitted,” said Simor prior to today's festivities.
Simor founded Alamo Beer Company in 1997 and introduced the flagship Alamo Golden Ale in the fall of 2003. The beer is now available in West Texas, South Texas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio and is sold in a number of major retailers, including H-E-B, Whole Foods, Gabriel’s and Specs, as well as in bars and restaurants.
Simor’s team includes brewmaster James Hudec, COO Jim Walker, and CFO John Crider.
Miriam Sitz is a freelance writer in San Antonio. A graduate of Trinity University, she blogs on Miriam210.com. Follow her on Twitter at @miriamsitz and click here for more stories from Miriam Sitz on the Rivard Report.