Bare Arms Brewing is creating such a buzz that owner Keith Collier is increasing his beer production tenfold, having spent about $200,000 on new equipment that arrived last week at his brewpub and headquarters on LaSalle Avenue near Waco’s traffic circle.
“We’re getting into our brewery expansion, so we can do more distribution into Waco,” Collier said, taking a brief break Friday from installing his new boil kettles, fermenters, hot liquor tank and brite tanks that will increase his capacity from 31 gallons to 310 gallons per batch.
“This has always been our business plan,” said Collier, who grew up in Houston, found a job in Waco and fell in love with the taste of crafted beer at Waco’s Dancing Bear Pub. “We wanted to just get the door open, get our recipes in place and then order additional equipment as we sought to get retailers interested in our product.”
He said demand is now such that a 31-gallon system is woefully inadequate if he truly wants to make a splash and quench the thirst of people sold on his brew.
“We just have not had much to give out,” Collier said. “With a one-barrel system, our stock is wiped out pretty quickly.”
The brewpub at Bare Arms Brewing is open limited hours to people wanting to sample beer in pint-sized containers or take home a brew in a 2-pint crowler. Prices range from $4.50 to $7 for the pints, $9 to $14 for a crowler, with a second available at half-price. Crowler cans cost $1 each.
Collier has delivered stock to Dancing Bear Pub, Salty Dog Sports Bar and Grill and Truelove Bar, but said he now will step up efforts to place his specialty brews in other establishments such as Buzzard Billy’s, Barnett’s Pub, Cricket’s Grill & Draft House and BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.
“There are a lot of retailers we are going to be contacting, and hopefully we’ll be getting our beer into bars,” Collier said.
Bare Arms Brewing so far has been promoted almost exclusively by word-of-mouth and social media and by visits to retailers with an offer of samples, he said.
Collier also made his beer available at the Brew at the Zoo fundraiser in September at Cameron Park Zoo.
Dancing Bear Pub owner Paxton Dove said Bare Arms Brewing has a bright future.
“I have heard that Keith has expanded his capacity, and it is super exciting to have a brewery of that scale in Waco,” Dove said, speaking by phone Friday from the Winter Wonderland in downtown Waco, where he was selling beer. “This will give him more consistency and quality control, and I can only see his product improving.”
Dove said he has managed to keep beer from Bare Arms Brewing in stock, but its popularity has made that difficult.
An India pale ale called Turbulence and a sour cranberry apple wheat ale dubbed Nebulous Tart have become crowd favorites, Dove said.
Ron Ziegler, who manages BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at Richland Mall, said earlier this year the restaurant takes pride in offering its own line of beers, but “also has the flexibility to provide four or five local favorites,” though that decision would be made at the corporate level.
He said Friday he has not yet been contacted by anyone about including Bare Arms Brewing offerings at his brewhouse.
At Cricket’s Grill & Draft House, a manager said he “needs to check out” Bare Arms Brewing, but said he is not an official spokesman for Cricket’s.
Collier said he can seat about 50 people in the serving area of his business on LaSalle Avenue, which is open from 1 to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. He said customers are welcome to socialize, order their favorites or sample test beers.
“When we’re up and running full steam, we’ll have to reevaluate those hours. They could be longer or shorter, but they probably will be changed,” he said.
Collier said he encourages patrons to share their opinions of the beers being produced and offer feedback on other flavors that may go over well.
When Collier launched Bare Arms Brewing, his staples included an American-style lager called Lux, a sour cranberry apple wheat ale called Nebulous Tart, an India pale ale called Turbulence and a chocolate coffee style called Java Joule. He continues to tweak these originals while adding new brews to his lineup regularly.
Alcohol content typically ranges from 4.25 percent to 8 percent, though a Pumpkin Cream BarleyWine undergoing fermentation has an alcohol content of 12 percent.
“One of our newer beers is a takeoff on our Nebulous Tart that includes raspberry puree. It has a nice raspberry flavor and has been well received,” Collier said. “We did a cucumber beer that we sold out of very quickly. And we made an apple spice wheat ale that mimicked the flavor of apple pie.”
He said he ordered his new stainless steel brewing system from a California-based company called Vintner Vault, which has opened a branch office in Hye.
“They work mostly with wineries but have started putting together brewpubs, and we are allowing them to use our brewery as a showroom for products other breweries may want to order,” Collier said. He declined to say how much he has invested in getting his company up and running, though he did say his expansion is costing $200,000.
For now, Bare Arms Brewing reportedly is the only active brewpub in Waco, but at least one more is coming.
David Stoneking, Tommy Mote and Jacob Martinka have partnered to create Brotherwell Brewing at 324 S. Sixth St., between the Dr Pepper Museum and Magnolia Market. Renovations are underway to create a 15-barrel brewhouse and tasting area, according to the company website.
Stoneking said when it opens, the group’s core offerings will include a dark, porter-style beer; a lager, probably a pilsner; an India pale ale; and a German-style wheat beer.
“We will also have seasonal and experimental batches,” said Stoneking, who added he visited Bare Arms Brewing and was impressed with the operation.