As the Greater Tomball and Magnolia areas see the arrival of craft beverage businesses such as Thirsty Bee Meadery last year and the anticipated 10,500-square-foot brewery coming soon to Tomball, Trevor Brown, the co-owner of Lone Pint Brewery in Magnolia, shared what he believes makes the area attractive for the industry and how Lone Pint is adapting to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
What brought you to the area in 2012?
We lived in Clear Lake at the time. So, it was me, my wife, my sister and her husband. There was a couple of hurricanes that occurred; we had mandatory evacuations. My parents [and] my wife's parents lived north and [in] Central Texas, so we had to travel across Houston to visit them at the time. We were doing that a lot, and we knew some people that lived up here, and we liked the area—good schools; we've got three kids. And so we thought, "It just makes sense, let's go check it out," and so that's really why we did it—small town.
How has the craft beverage industry in the Magnolia and Tomball areas changed since you've been in business here?
I wouldn't say very much at all. We're still the only brewery in town because it's a small town. Tomball has a couple now; I think they've got a little distillery in the works. They've got a brewpub that's there, another brewery that's planning to open at the end of the year, I believe. That's what I read at least; I haven't met any of those guys. But just like any other areas, you're seeing growth. It's just everything's concentrated more in the urban areas, and it's growing outward. So, eventually you'll see more and more in this area as this area develops. [Magnolia] is mostly residential ... so there's not a lot of retail except on the east side which when you get toward Conroe. And like I said, that's why we liked it because it's more rural.
What makes this area attractive for your business?
Well, the town is great. It's the people. Craft beer’s everywhere, but even [in] small towns, there's people out here [that] they'll drink it even if they've never had it before just because they want to drink beer from their town. So, we've had a lot of people convert. There's been plenty that say, "Okay I don't like it, I'll just keep drinking my Natty Light," but we've converted quite a lot of people out here, and it's nice to have your own town, your own local interest. If you open up in Houston, you have huge advantages where you have lots more people that can come visit—more exposure—but you're then one of 50 breweries. It's whichever you prefer; I think we prefer this.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business?
All of our employees are still here. We're down about 40% on our sales, and that mostly has to do with keg sales [to] bars. Other than that we're doing fine. We're delaying our plans for future expansion at this point, so everyone's on hold. I'm not the only one in that boat; everyone's having to do that, but it could be worse, I guess. There's breweries that are in financial trouble because they're highly leveraged and they're going to go out of business, and that's unfortunate, but we're in a good spot, so I can't complain.
Are there plans for future expansion?
Oh, yeah. We just finished a major expansion in March, one week before COVID[-19] hit. We had our silo installed. We had new tanks installed at the end of [fourth quarter] last year, then we had the silo installed, got everything up and running. In January we hired new people, split up the teams, [created a] dedicated packaging line. It was a big change for us. ... And we were rocking and rolling maybe two months, maybe eight weeks, before COVID came down. This [expansion] is supposed to get us about two more years. And in two years we'll probably be looking to build a nice big facility [in Magnolia].
Have you had to change the way you do things at all?
Yeah, so we were shut down because we're deemed a bar basically. Even though we're an outdoor venue attached to a brewery, we're deemed a bar. So, we were shut down for a while. There was a little loophole that was found where we reopened maybe for a week before [the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] came in and said, "No, that's not how the law's interpreted, shut back down." It wasn't just us; it was everybody. And so, we've been shut down for the most part—except for to-go beer—since mid-March until just over a week ago [in late August] where TABC decided they were going to allow people holding brewery permits [to] reopen with an affidavit, under the guise of, "You’re a restaurant now. You're allowed to sell your beer but you can't exceed 50% or 51% of all sales [in alcohol] or you're no longer restaurants." ... [Reveille Barbecue Co.] is here right now, and we have food trucks, and even though we don't own those entities, we can combine their revenues to offset the alcohol sales, under this new guideline. ... I'm very happy TABC finally saw fit that this is something that needs to happen to really help us because like I said we're not selling as much beer as we should because all the bars are still closed down, but our taproom was closed too. Even though it's an outdoor venue with food, it's very low risk compared to Schlitterbahn, swim-up bars and stuff like that.
Magnolia-based Lone Pint Brewery co-owner shares how the brewery is adapting, planning for expansion
Lone Pint Brewery co-owner Trevor Brown talked about how the local alcohol industry has changed, expansion plans and how the brewery is adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. (Adriana Rezal/Community Impact Newspaper)