Family Business Beer: Where Texans Come to Drink
Written By: Samantha Latta
Photos Courtesy of: Julia Keim
While driving through the winding hills of Hamilton Pool Road, a progressive new brewery can be found within the beautiful countryside of Dripping Springs. Straying from the industrial feel and warehouse-style atmosphere, Family Business Beer is breaking the mold for typical breweries in an appealing and family-friendly fashion. Approachable beer crossed with passionate ownership, talented leadership, and proud Texas roots makes for one undeniably exceptional craft beer destination.
What started as a backyard hobby to foster brotherly, in-law bonding quickly evolved into one of the most reputable and welcoming new brew pubs in the Lone Star State. Daytime Emmy Award nominee and famous actor/director Jensen Ackles partnered with his brother-in-law Gino Graul to purchase a Brew-Magic pilot system, which essentially began the operation of Family Business Beer Company.
“It all started with a Brew-Magic system,” Bar Manager Andrew Wojcicki said. “Normally when you home brew, you don’t really have anything close to this level of sophistication, but Jensen and Gino had a friend who was getting rid of his, and they bought it off of him.”
Run as a collaborative effort between the owners, brewers, and enthusiastic staff, Family Business Beer operates based on, and is ultimately named after, the underlying concept of the business: family. Owned collectively by Jensen and his wife Daneel, her parents Ed and Debby Graul, and brother Gino Graul, the name was instinctive to them.
“We batted around names for months and never found anything that spoke to who we were or what we are about,” Manager/Co-owner Gino Graul said. “When we boiled it down to what was important to us, the name was there.”
Gino sought further education in the brewing industry by attending Siebel Institute in Chicago, and really dug into the concept as a potential business model. Along with the rest of the family, he felt strongly that it was the perfect reason to move back to their Texas roots.
“For the other owners and myself, Texas has always been home,” Gino said. “When we considered where we wanted to plant our roots, there really was no other option.”
Aside from their passion and pride, their success also stems from the skillful brewers on staff who pour their hearts and souls into their work. When the owners found their Head Brewer, Nate Seale, it was the omen they needed to push the business from imaginable to achievable. With Nate’s fifteen years of experience and intricate finesse, he has turned their vision into a tangible, tasteful product; fulfilling the family business dream one batch at a time.
“One of the most interesting and satisfying things about brewing is variety, and the opportunity to explore and create new things,” Nate said. “From the first conversations . . . it was clear that we were all excited about exploring a wide variety of beer styles.”
A native Austinite, Nate has made a name for himself as a professional brewer. The famed co-creator of the (512) Pecan Porter made at (512) Brewing in Austin, Nate was practicing his craft in Portland, Oregon when he caught wind of the company’s head brewer search.
“It’s a really humbling experience to watch him [Nate] work back here,” Wojcicki said of Nate’s presence at Family Business Beer. “There’s a ton of hard work, a lot of research, a lot of cleaning, but when it’s done right and the beer comes out and it’s enjoyable, it’s a pretty incredible thing.”
In the initial stages of development, the owners were particularly mindful of the location choice for the establishment. Though there were many warehouse and industrial options in Austin, those properties did not align with their concept and they refused to compromise their goal. However, their patience paid off when Daneel’s uncle, John Graul, tipped them off about his neighbor’s property for sale; the rest was history.
Housed on fifteen acres of serene hill country peppered with cedar and oak trees, the former horse ranch is now officially home to Family Business Beer; a place where all are welcome, from all walks of life.
“[Hospitality] was a court tenant of [the owners] from the outset; they’ve got young children, they’re family people, and they really wanted to make it a welcoming atmosphere for everyone,” Wojcicki said.
Family Business Beer offers a kid-friendly playscape, dog-friendly policy, live music, open seating, and yard games. The concrete and white walls, steel accents, and abundant windows give it a modern feel. The back-patio’s view is a breath of fresh air, illuminated by strings of lights connecting the trees shading the picnic tables. In addition to the welcoming atmosphere, the staff top off the experience with their friendly expertise and warm conversation, an important aspect of Family Business Beer’s standard.
“We definitely take pride in the quality of our product,” Gino said. “The greatest reward is being behind the bar or out in the oak grove and hearing from so many people that they truly enjoyed their entire flight of beers. That’s what it’s all about!”
The engaging and enthusiastic attitude that the company exudes truly spills over into every aspect of the business, and it is the collaborative spirit that drives the company’s success. As Gino implied, “from the brewer and cellarman to the bartenders and floor personnel, everyone has a job to do. It’s the extra effort that our staff put into it that really brings the tasting room to life.”
The extra effort makes the difference indeed. As Wojcicki explained, many places claim to be family-friendly, but it takes that extra step to make it really welcoming. Fear not the daunting beer menu, as Wojcicki promises, “it’s not your job to know the beers, it’s our job to teach you.”
“[Beer] is the ultimate, every-day-person beverage. This is supposed to bring people together, and like good food, or good music, or any kind of art form, it’s supposed to open up your horizons but not make you feel like you’re uncultured, or not cool enough, or not sophisticated enough,” Wojcicki said.
The Brews + Food
They officially broke ground on the brewery in late 2016, brewed the first batches in November 2017, and opened to the public on January 10, 2018. Working within their massive 7,500 square feet of production space, Family Business Beer is on track to produce around 1,500 to 1,600 barrels of beer in their first year of operation.
Currently, Family Business Beer produces seven year-round beers, and Nate is always hard at work brewing something new. In April of 2018, he had five brand new beers fermenting to hit the tap list this past summer.
“There is a lot of leg work that goes into designing a new beer,” Wojcicki said. “[Nate] has a recipe book that is just enormous, and I can’t wait to see him get a chance to pull more of those new beers out.” Wojcicki said that Nate has “a wealth of knowledge” about brewing, and every time he has something new to taste it is like Christmas morning.
Right now, the company has nine beers on tap, Hamilton Pale Ale being the most popular. Named after the Hamilton House on site, this commonly ordered brew is a modern American pale ale with a crisp, citrusy taste containing all the flavors of a summertime brew but no bitter aftertaste. Close seconds to the Hamilton’s popularity are the Cosmic Cowboy IPA, Haulin’ Oats Oatmeal Brown Ale, and the Grackle Hill Country Imperial Stout, which is rich with roasty, full-bodied goodness, and titled after a combination of the family names, Graul and Ackles.
Another noteworthy beer on draught is The Fox, named after the sly animal spotted on the property during the final stages of Nate’s creation. He described The Fox as a rye lager, styled after the continental pilsners of Europe; clean and refreshing with a bit of herbal spiciness from the rye and noble hop varieties. To round out the menu, a Family Business Beer favorite is The Ghost White IPA, a hybrid style somewhere between a Belgian witbier and a fruity American IPA.
Family Business Beer quenches your thirst, but the onsite food truck satisfies your appetite. Jep’s Southern Roots is owned and operated by Jep and Jessica Robertson, familiar faces from the popular American television series, Duck Dynasty. This partnership was a success from the beginning; as Gino explained, “good people just gravitate towards
“When we met Jep and Jess we just hit it off,” Gino said. “At first we weren’t sure how we were going to address having a food option, but once we heard they were moving to Texas and wanted to start a food truck, it all came together.”
Jep’s Southern Roots serves crave-worthy, down-home comfort food and homemade Cajun staples ranging from po’boys and fried shrimp, to crawfish and jambalaya! Using only fresh ingredients for their dishes, the Robertsons advise you to “prepare to drool” before diving into one of their delicious Southern favorites.
“Jep and his staff are there every day we are open and have been such a joy to work alongside,” Gino said. “They’re constantly experimenting and adding new things to their menu. They also use a few of our beers as ingredients in their food.”
If you do have the chance to try it all, you can always justify a trip back to Family Business Beer with their promise that there is still more to come!