Monday, December 23, 2013
Allen’s first brewery slated to open mid-2014
Nine Band Brewery will make barley wine, which is rare to find from a craft shop in North Texas.
ALLEN Allen residents will be able to sample some local lager if plans for the city’s first brewery come to fruition next year.
Nine Band Brewing – a collaboration between entrepreneur Keith Ashley and brewmaster Jack Sparks – is expected to break ground next month and to be fully constructed and producing beer for sale by May.
Ashley has been involved in establishing breweries in the past. A financial planner by trade, he helped start Franconia Brewery in McKinney, though he has since sold his interest in Franconia and is no longer affiliated with the brewery.
His new venture is named after the number of bands on the shell of an armadillo, which adorns its label.
“We wanted something that we can say is Texan, but is accepted in other states,” Ashley said.
Sparks is returning to his hometown to help start Nine Band. His career as a brewmaster includes a two-year stint working at Saya Mircobrewery in La Paz, Bolivia, which he said is the highest elevation brewery in the world.
“I helped turn that little place into on-site only, just draft beer on-site only, into nationwide in Bolivia in just a year and a half,” Sparks said. “That was a really good success. I was really excited about that.”
Sparks has already planned the brewery’s initial lineup, which will include a kölsch, a wheat beer, an amber beer, a pale ale and a barley wine – the beer he’s most excited about.
Barley wine is a rare offering for most brewers and is mainly used as a seasonal beer, but Nine Band plans to make it one of its staples. Sparks said he isn’t aware of another brewery in the area that makes barley wine, which is a strong beer with an alcohol by volume content that can be as high as 12 percent.
“Nobody has one, so that will be something that completely sets us apart,” he said.
Sparks said the reason barley wine is rare is because it’s expensive and difficult to make, requiring twice the ingredients as a typical beer to get half the yield.
“It’s a very exciting beer, but you really don’t want to be pounding those things,” he said.
Nine Band’s beers will be offered at its brewery and in stores throughout North Texas, with a focus on the area within a 30-mile radius of Allen. If things go well, Ashley hopes to build additional breweries under the same brand.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’m going to expand this.”
The familial associations of beer are what made Ashley invest in breweries, along with his love of the product itself and the stability of sales.
“When you get together as family -- I’m not saying all families drink alcohol -- but it’s just like breaking bread,” Ashley said.
“You’re not going to have a beer with someone you don’t know, you’re going to have a beer with a friend and y’all are going to talk about life. To me, the beer industry is -- from a business perspective -- a very stable environment, because when the economy is going good, beer is going good. When the economy is going bad, beer is going sometimes better.”
Nine Band has been more than a year in the making. During that time, Ashley and Sparks have been taking care of preliminary business such as trying to find land in Allen to locate the brewery, trademarking its name and the names of its beers, and satisfying requirements of the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission and city of Allen.
“The city of Allen team has been nothing but phenomenal,” Ashley said.
Alongside barley wine, Nine Band will have another unique offering: brewing classes taught by Sparks. He previously taught classes that attracted about 250 students at a brewery he ran in Oklahoma City.
“There are so many people out there that want to learn how to home brew,” he said.
The brewery will be at 9 Prestige Circle in the shadow of one of Allen’s water towers. The brewery will be split into two buildings: one housing a tap room, offices and some retail space, and another where the brewing and bottling will take place.
The Allen City Council approved a specific use permit for the brewery on December 10 that allows it to be built at the planned location. Before construction begins, Nine Band still must have its site plan approved by the city to receive a building permit.
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