Fall in the San Antonio area may mean (slightly) cooler temperatures after another long brutal summer. But for local fans of craft beer, this autumn will be heating up. Both 5 Stones Artisan Brewery and the tentatively named Comfort Brewing plan to open soon.
5 Stones had very humble beginnings four years ago, in a 1,200-square-foot leased spot in a Cibolo industrial park. Now, owner/brewer Seth Weatherly and his crew have a bigger home to call their own — a stand-alone, 5,000-square-foot facility along Farm Road 1863 between Garden Ridge and New Braunfels.
Half of the structure’s space is dedicated to the brewhouse and taproom, with the remaining square footage meant for barrels, warehousing, and a loft. 5 Stones initially operated on a three-barrel system in the original location, double-brewing into seven-barrel fermenters. In the new site, 5 Stones has 15 barrels single-brewing into 15-barrel fermenters. “If things go well, we may add 30-barrel fermenters and double brew into those,” Weatherly said.
5 Stones is most known for its series of fruity brews with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Aloha Piña is the standard beer, an American golden ale for which the brewery uses hundreds of pineapples, adding jalapeños for kick. The Frederick Berg includes its namesake’s famous peaches, Norma Jeane is made with Poteet-farmed strawberries, and the Sleepy Hollow involves smoked pumpkins.
The original brewery had a few well-attended open houses, but because of the limited space, opening a taproom a few days a week was not feasible. “We felt embraced by the community,” Weatherly explained. “We just couldn’t be with them. We didn’t have a place for them to come visit. As time goes along, we feel like people are interested in what we’re doing but we’ve never been able to share life with them. We’re hopeful now that we’ve got a place, they’ll come out.”
The brewery will phase out its familiar large bomber bottles, attributing the move to an industry-wide decline in bomber sales. Instead, the seasonals and special brews will go into four-packs. Core beers will be canned. 5 Stones plans to have four mainstay beers available at least 75 percent of the time. One of those brews is newer — Shepherd Boy, a 6 percent pale ale.
The taproom will feature 16 taps, with some chairs and tables around the bar. Interior capacity will range from 50-60 people, but there will be room for about 100 outside. Weatherly also envisions some chairs, tables, and maybe small sofas for the loft area. They hope to have their grand opening by late October, with planned hours on Wednesdays through Saturdays featuring live acoustic music and food trucks.
“We just want people to be able to come out, sit out on the porch and let the wind blow through their hair,” he said.
Comfort Brewing is the temporary name for a brewery/distillery in a former movie theater in the Hill Country city’s downtown. Owner Dr. Russell Cravey, an area eye surgeon, admits to an entrepreneurial spirit. Having developed a fondness for distilling, Cravey initially wanted to build a small distillery on his private property, but by chance, the historic Comfort Community Theatre was available for acquisition. Cravey briefly opened a brick-and-mortar coffee place inside part of the old theater before switching gears.
Work crews have spent months renovating the 1930s building, preserving some of its theatrical elements (Cravey thinks movie nights will be a thing to do down the line). The total space now measures 11,000 square feet, meaning that even with space for a revived coffee roasting business and a distillery (Cravey has not yet decided which spirits to distill, but he’s considering an Irish-style whiskey to start), the structure has enough space to help realize another vision — microbrewing.
An old backstage area has been reconfigured and converted to accommodate a 25-barrel brewhouse with beer-bottling operations nearby. Thanks to the reconfiguration, there’s room for seating to provide a German beer-garden-style atmosphere indoors. The 12-line taproom will start with five beers. Cravey will have a brewer come up with mainly old world European recipes, beginning with a lager, light lager, bock, and pilsner.
After setting up the core operation, they’ll entertain making some seasonals. With the in-house coffee operations, a coffee stout is not out of the question. However, Cravey said lighter beers will be the focus. “There’s a lot of light beer drinkers out there who might be interested in a craft beer instead of drinking from the big three [brewers],” he added.
A business name has become a separate challenge. Another local merchant plans to open a brewpub with “Comfort Brewing” somewhere in the name or products. So Cravey is open to ideas on a name that can encapsulate his brewery/distillery. Regardless of what he calls it, he wants his business to be a family-friendly, integral part of Comfort Backyard, a growing block of local businesses in the city’s center, including Hill Country Distillers and Huckleberry's bar and event space. Walkways replacing property-line fences permit visitors short strolls among the businesses who are collaborating to bring in more locals and tourists for dining, entertainment, and shopping.
“I think this will be a really nice place to have, Comfort Backyard, for people, young families, with games,” Cravey said.
If all works out, Cravey’s brewery/distillery will be up and running by early November. “We’re getting there,” he said, “it’s been an exciting project.”