Brewing up something new in Liberty Hill

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Something’s brewing downtown, and come “Hell or High Water” Brian Holmes is determined to soon be watching locals sipping his beer recipes in the heart of Liberty Hill.

“It is going to feel great,” Holmes said of the idea of watching visitors sip his brew recipes soon. “It has been a dream a long time. It’s been a labor of love and I’ve written a lot of business plans over the years and laid awake at night thinking about it. It will be pretty rewarding when we get those first beers on tap and I’m sure there will be a big grin on my face.”

Hell or High Water Brewing has taken up residence on the corner of Main and Myrtle Streets downtown and has opened its doors effective Dec. 5 to give visitors a new experience in Liberty Hill.

The brewery is the long-time dream of Holmes, who began fermenting his dreams more than 30 years ago with small-batch brewing at home.

The recipes have developed over the years as Holmes has perfected his craft, but coming up with a name was a different kind of challenge altogether.

“If you ever want a real fun, interesting exercise, try and come up with a name for a brewery that’s not already taken,” Holmes said laughing. “We got to the point, for at least a year, where we’d drive around and see something that would make a good name and every time you’d look it up it was taken.”

But a movie date with his wife, Paula Cronin, helped the pair stumble upon the perfect name that captured the spirit of their determination to make this dream a reality.

“We went to see the movie ‘Hell or High Water’ and we were driving home and I thought that would be a great name for a brewery, and she said ‘yeah, because come hell or high water we’re going to have a brewery’.”

The brewery will open with four 10-barrel fermenters, and beginning an operation with something that size suits Holmes perfectly as he plans to make sure everything is just right at each step in building his dream.

“There are a lot of things we can do because we’re doing it smaller,” Holmes said, adding that going from brewing at home to a full-fledged brewery can create some nerves. “It’s kind of frightening in a way. I’ve been a home brewer and I’ve spent some time in some breweries, but this equipment shows up and you see all these valves and ask ‘what are all those for?’”

With the valves down and the variety of shiny new parts coming into place, Holmes is hoping to get a handful of brews in the works and on tap soon.

“We want to get our beer on tap, and we did quite a few tastings before we got here doing this,” he said. “What we want to do is do something with some wide appeal at first, and the tastings have kind of told us that like a Blonde and an Irish Red are good. The Facebook feedback we’re getting is the town really likes Stouts and Porters. We’ve got 24 taps, we can make something for everybody.”

Like all beer enthusiasts, he has his preferences, but as a brewer, Holmes wants to find that special beer for everyone who comes through the door.

“I like to dabble and experiment with all of them, but I think the first beers we will come out with will be an IPA, probably a Blonde a Kolsch, a Stout, a Porter, and a Red,” Holmes said. “We’ll get some kegs of our own stuff that people like on the taps first then we’ll start moving toward some specialty and seasonals. I’m big on pumpkin beer and there’s a Christmas beer I make that we like a lot. We would like to focus on doing some seasonal things.”

Beginning with a smaller operation also opens the door to creating something unique larger breweries might not experiment with.

“In my mind there would be nothing better than if we started producing something in small batches that kind of had a cult following,” he said. “I’m not trying to become the mega-millionaire beer guy. That’s not our goal in doing this. We’re just trying to retire and be part of a family.”

Joining Holmes in this venture are three partners who bring a wealth of food service and brewing experience to the table.

“Brian makes a great beer and this has been a dream of his forever,” partner Jim Jenkins said. “The three partners in this thing have known each other for a long time and have come together to make Brian and Paula’s dream come true. It’s been a blast.”

Alongside Holmes and Jenkins are Jon Silva and Randy Willard.

“Jon is the owner operator of Shack 512 down on the lake, so that’s an interesting part of the story because we found another local entrepreneur looking to expand his business so we joined forces on the kitchen side,” Jenkins said.

The in-house brews will be the focus, but wine, spirits and an extensive food menu from bar foods and burgers to entrees like salmon and steak will also be on tap to try and meet any taste.

“When we get our brewery up and going around the end of the year or first part of January, you will see some guest taps as well, but you will start seeing Hell or High Water beers,” he said. “We will have a full spirits line as well, featuring Texas spirits.”

Hell or High Water will give visitors an up close look at the brewing process on site, but with seating inside and out and plans for live music as well as other event opportunities, owners plan to have something for everyone, from drink selection to food to atmosphere.

“You’ve seen how sophisticated food has become and it’s not that it’s high end or really expensive, but it’s quality, whether it is a family recipe or just something unique,” Jenkins said. “The world is shrinking as it relates to experiences and global experiences, so it doesn’t have to be expensive but it has to be authentic. I think you bring that into the beer scene as well. Yes this is a restaurant, but it is a working brewery as well so people will get that experience.”

Their new home in Liberty Hill is exactly what they were looking for.

“We’d been out looking for a place and couldn’t find anything that particularly felt like it was us and Brian (Holmes) ran into this place and it just clicked,” Jenkins said. “We consider ourselves very lucky to be on what we feel is the cusp of really an economic and social boom that’s going to happen out here in Liberty Hill. We’re honored to be here.”

Being a part of a growing community and downtown is exciting for everyone involved.

“I think it is a great thing for Liberty Hill,” Jenkins said. “Every day five or 10 people come knocking on the door asking when we’re going to be open. There’s excitement. One business isn’t going to blow the whole thing up, but a combination of a lot of moves happening in Liberty Hill are going to have this place – from a quality of life perspective – wake up really quickly.”

In the end, as visitors raise a glass, what owners hope to see is smiles on faces that become familiar.

“It’s important for us to not just be a bar, but to be a place where you can come and share your family’s experiences, meet friends and be part of the town,” Jenkins said. “It’s about seeing people happy. For me, hearing people recommend us and seeing more people show up is going to be the real answer and that doesn’t happen just because.”

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