Whenever a new brewery opens, two questions immediately spring to mind. What will the beer be like, and what are the chances that brewery will be successful? Pose such queries to Jeremy Roberts, and you come away believing he and wife Natalie have their Sherman-based 903 Brewers project headed in the right direction.
Listening to Roberts describe his business philosophy, his roots in marketing become apparent right away. He emphasizes product differentiation as a way to build his brand in the increasingly crowded North Texas marketplace. It’s an important point for any brewer, but even more so in a city already saturated with certain locally-brewed styles. A prime example of his approach will be the brewery’s first commercial beer, a coconut ale brewed with six-row barley and flaked rice called The Chosen One.
That beer, along with those to follow, will be brewed on a small-batch system currently flanked by eight 2 bbl fermenters. Roberts explains that the choice of going with smaller format vessels was mostly driven by a desire for flexibility. While he could have purchased one or two larger tanks on the same budget, such a setup would limit number of different beers he would have available at any given time. He does, however, plan to upgrade to a 30 bbl system in as early as a year, with hopes of adding a bottling line or canning capability around the same time. With just over 10,000 square feet of space, he’ll have more than enough room to grow.
Licensing took a bit longer than expected, but Roberts appears to have used the additional time wisely. From the beginning, he has polled consumers for their opinion on beers offered during special private tastings, making sure to consider each and every response. Having sampled his creations at different times during 903’s development, it’s fair to say they’ve gotten better with each incarnation. Attribute it to better equipment and/or more experience if you like, but a continuous improvement in overall balance and quality has been evident from the start.
What also might be a factor is how the founders have surrounded themselves with the right kind of people. Both spent time working with Michael Peticolas at his brewery in Dallas, while Zio Carlo’s Austin Jones (formerly of Rahr & Sons) has been a fixture at 903, lending a helping hand wherever it may be needed. One would think that being mentored by award-winning brewers has to count for something.
As for what you can look forward to, Roos Red Ale, a “hoppy” red ale inspired by the neighboring Austin College Kangaroos, will join The Chosen One among the brewery’s initial offerings. Beyond that, a vanilla cream ale tested early on is being considered, as well as a number of limited specialty brews. Regarding the latter, Roberts is experimenting with a barrel treatment of his coconut ale, aged on toasted oak from a rum distillery hoping to open in Sherman in the near future.
In closing, Roberts mentioned one thing which speaks to the type of brewing portfolio he wants to provide for North Texans. The best feedback to him would be to hear someone say “Hey, that’s a beer I would drink again.” I imagine a few people will be doing just that.
903 Brewers rollout schedule:
June 8 – Grand Opening at the brewery.
June 13 – First commercial release at Cellarman’s American Pub in Sherman.
June 19 – Dallas debut at Craft and Growler.
June 27 – Fort Worth debut at Zio Carlo Magnolia Brewpub.
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