With all of the breweries opening in Central Texas, it can be hard for a new beer business to get the attention it wants or deserves. But when a celebrity is involved—a brewery is started by a famous television personality, say—it generates hype beyond the usual craft-beer-nerd chatter. Such is the case with Family Business Beer Co. in Dripping Springs, outside of Austin. Owners include Dallas native Jensen Ackles of the long-running CW show Supernatural, which debuted in 2005 and has amassed a dedicated following, the #SPNFamily, in its thirteen seasons. Jensen is joined by his wife, Danneel Ackles, also an actor who just joined the show, along with his brother-in-law, Gino Graul, and his in-laws, Ed and Debby Graul. Their 15-acre brewery opened earlier this month to a lot of fanfare.
Normally a celebrity’s involvement would cause skepticism in a close-knit beer community like Austin’s (and to be honest, it has). But when beer geeks learned that Nate Seale, formerly of (512) Brewing, was to man the helm of Family Business’s brewhouse, that skepticism melted away.
Nate is well known for co-creating the cherished (512) Pecan Porter while at (512) Brewing, where he worked for more than six years. Then in 2014, he and his wife, in search of new opportunities, moved to Portland, where he worked at a small brewpub. But after just a year and half, he felt the pull of home and started looking for brewing jobs back in Austin. “I was missing the scene badly,” he recalls. “I knew I wanted to be in charge of something, but that was going to be tricky to find. Nothing was panning out.” Luckily Jensen and Co. were on the hunt for an experienced brewer to round out their team at Family Business.
After some time home-brewing in California, Jensen and Gino began working on a plan to open a brewery of their own. Says Jensen: “We kept making beer, and friends started asking for it more often. Before we knew it, we were talking about a brewery and making it on a small scale that would be sustainable.”
They first began looking at real estate in California to open the brewery, but soon settled on the idea of building in Central Texas, close to friends and family. Jensen was born and raised in Dallas, and the Ackles were ready for a change. “My whole family lives in Texas,” Jensen says. “I really have no connection, no ties to California, other than the fact that it was where I needed to be for the industry that I am in.”
They might have been happy with their homebrew, but they knew they needed a professional brewer with real experience on a large-scale system. They placed ads on ProBrewer.com seeking just that. Nate saw one of those ads and applied. After a few phone calls, some emails, and a Portland visit from Gino, they offered Nate the position.
“Jensen and I knew very early on it wasn’t going to be our beer that we were selling,” Gino says. “We were willing to bring all the other elements together for the business, but we needed that missing link. We needed Nate.”
When word spread that Nate was returning to Austin, local beer fans welcomed him home like a prodigal son. And when Family Business opened its doors on January 10, beer geeks were more than pleased to wait in line along with Supernatural fans for a first taste of Nate’s beers.
Nate plans to keep seven year-round beers on tap at all times, including the Fox Rye Lager and the Grackle, a substantial imperial stout weighing in at nearly 9 percent ABV. The Grackle will be their first beer to get barrel-aging treatment, utilizing barrels from Garrison Brothers Distillery. Other seasonal and occasionally brewed beers will fill out the menu at the taproom. And because they are a brewpub, beer-to-go is also available. Bring in your own (clean) growler or buy one of theirs, and they can fill it at the bar to enjoy at home. Distribution to area bars and restaurants is in the cards for the future. “After a few months, when we kind of understand our numbers at the tasting room and we feel confident that we are in a good rhythm there, then we will start looking at some spots around town,” Jensen says.
On their fifth day open, the parking lot was mostly full, even though it was not quite noon. Families were enjoying the clean taproom, the well-shaded beer garden, and the fenced-in playscape. A few teens were lurking, hoping for a selfie with Danneel and Jensen. Unfortunately for them, Jensen was half way to Vancouver to continue shooting episodes for Supernatural. The permanent food truck, Jep’s Southern Roots, from owners Jep and Jessica Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, was serving up Southern-style grub. Everyone (except the kids of course) was drinking Nate’s beers.
Though Nate may be a beer celebrity in Austin, don’t expect to see his bearded face coming across your screen during any upcoming episodes of Supernatural. According to him, “I’m a little camera shy maybe. There is a reason I work behind the scenes.”