Little brewery with big story opening soon on San Antonio's East Side
The microbrewery scene in San Antonio is thriving. With 5 Stones Artisan Brewery building its bigger, standalone facility in Comal County; Künstler Brewing constructing its outpost in Southtown; and Brazen BeXar Brewing and Black Laboratory Brewing raising funds to become separate operations, locals have tons of new craft beer options to look forward to.
Add Islla St. Brewing Co. to the list. Brothers Josh and Joaquin "J.D." Peña are working hard to gain final permits from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and prep the layout for their East Side microbrewery. If all goes according to plan, Islla St. will be up and running by this fall.
Islla St. will be housed inside LocalSprout, a warehouse "food hub" that fosters a collaborative space for local food and beverage producers. The brewery is small, about a few hundred square feet, but it's big enough for brewing small batches of year-round and seasonal beers. It also has space for a taproom, which will be open to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Fridays during special events, and the occasional Sunday.
J.D. tells CultureMap that once final permits are finalized and pre-planning elements are put in place, it will take only a few weeks to outfit Islla St. The taproom will resemble the home of Ricardo Peña, the brothers' grandfather, who died earlier this year.
Ricardo's home at 1606 Islla St. in Corpus Christi was a place full of love and activity for the Peña family. The taproom's design includes a shade of baby blue — the color of the house — and the bed of an old truck, which doubled as a bar for family members during outdoor gatherings.
"My grandparents had this huge pergola in the back we used to hang out on. It had grapevines all over it," J.D. recalls. "We kind of wanted to do an homage to where we were raised. It won't be the biggest brewery in San Antonio, but hopefully it'll be the most heartfelt."
The brothers' grandfather grew a luscious garden at his Corpus Christi home and their father runs a catering business on the side, so the family possesses a deep love for cooking. As a result, "a majority of our beers are culinary-driven," J.D. says. The Islla St. brews will make great use of local ingredients, especially those dominant in Hispanic communities and produced by the fellow LocalSprout tenants Texas Black Gold, Truckin' Tomato, and Pulp Coffee.
One of J.D.'s first batches of beer, which will become a standard offering at Islla St., was 1606 Ale, a Belgian saison brewed with orange peels, lavender, basil, and sage. He is also working on Chola Blonde, a blonde ale inspired by the brothers' aunt, Adriana Garza, which has what J.D. calls "a little bit of a sour kick to it because it has tamarind, melon, and cumin seeds."
Other Islla St. brews include Fixation on the Hopness, a "hopped-up IPA"; Suavecito '37, a coconut brown ale and another tribute to Ricardo Peña; Itty Bitty Witty Committee, a Belgian-inspired wit with a kick; and Midnight Tradition, a Mexican hot chocolate stout.
"We want to expand, but we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves," he said. "We want to make sure the beers resonate with San Antonians — not only the craft beer community or people from San Antonio in general, but people who come from outside San Antonio."
J.D. says the pending launch of Islla St. only helps solidify San Antonio's standing as a hot spot for microbrewing and craft beer. The microbrewery will distribute its products around Bexar County to start.
"One of the cool things is that everybody has their interpretation of doing [craft beer]. There are no set rules," J.D. said. "It's your deal. You figure out things as you go along. My perception is that we're not reinventing the wheel, we're just making a style of beer differently."