LOUANNA CAMPBELL firstname.lastname@example.org
Craft beer has become a family affair and a business for the owners of ETX Brewing Co.
Brothers Matt and Brian Gilstrap and Annie Gilstrap, Brian’s wife, took on corporate America in sales, education and IT fields after their collegiate days at Texas State University. During those college years, the group made their own beer and experimented with craft beer recipes. Matt moved on to Austin and Brian and Annie settled in the Dallas area after graduating from college.
“We all enjoyed the science, art, creativity and love that go into beer making,” Brian Gilstrap said.
A little over a decade later, after the daily 9-to-5 work days and 40-plus hours spent in cubicles and offices, the group was ready for a change of pace. Annie and Brian moved to Tyler, where Annie went to work at Caldwell Elementary.
“On the weekends, I would make my way to Tyler,” Matt said. “The software installing and working in cubicles in Austin made me want to get away from the city. I would go to my brother and sister-in-law’s house on the weekends and complain about work until it was time to go back to work on Monday.”
Out of those conversations and complaining sessions, the group established that they needed a change. And it was making beer that made them happy.
“I got tired of hearing them complain,” Annie said. “I asked Brian what he would do in a perfect world, if he could do anything. He said he would open a brewery. I told him that’s what he needed to do and to start working on it.”
Matt put his house on the market and made plans to move to Tyler and join the rest of the family. They created their LLC in August 2013, and began preparing a business plan for ETX Brewing Co.
“We were working on a plan to come up with a way to sell good beer and a go-to-market strategy,” Brian Gilstrap said. “Fate and faith put things together. With family and friends, we were able to find the perfect building and we met with the landlord who put us here.”
ETX Brewing Co. came into fruition in May, when the lease was signed and the equipment was ordered. They intend to start production on their craft beers on Dec. 5. The conical fermentation tanks and the brew house are in place and ready for a late December opening.
The team said it is confident in the process and know it will have good beer that is great tasting and ready to serve. Their tap room will feature 10 beers, five that will be constantly on tap and five more that will be different recipes and featured at different times.
Their future plans are to have a stage for live music and an art wall dedicated to local artists who wish to display and sell their work. Vickie Berry, an artist and Brian and Matt’s mother, has been painting the brick walls that were painted white when the building was used as a tire and automotive business. Ms. Berry has been using her artistic abilities to paint the walls to look like they are actual red bricks.
Lonnie Gilstrap, Brian and Matt’s father, is spending his days as a retired engineer helping his sons with his carpentry skills. Lonnie’s bar design will feature charging stations for electronic devices and provide a comfortable place to sit and taste the craft beers that will be on tap. Matt, a former IT professional, has plans for a technologically advanced IT system to support the needs of the business customers.
“We have a great downtown location that is vibrant and growing,” Brian said. “We will have a tasting room to gather and socialize and you can see who is making your beer.”
The family intends to give back to Tyler and East Texas. They have charitable events and ideas for fundraising that they will incorporate into their business.
“Once a month, we want to have charitable events,” Matt Gilstrap said. “There are great nonprofit organizations in Tyler and we want to be associated with them and give back as much as we can.”
The brewery will be family-friendly and have an area for young children to play. There will be root beer on tap and a place for families to gather and get involved in the downtown community. The Gilstraps want to promote responsible drinking and plan to have incentives for designated drivers.
“We want people to know where their beer is coming from,” Annie Gilstrap said. “This is going to be a farmers market approach to beer making. There’s nothing wrong with the grocery stores, but it’s also good to know where your food and, in our case, beer, is coming from.”
ETX Brewing Co. is at 221 South Broadway Ave.
For more information, visit etxbrew.com.