Alumni make non-traditional beers in Fort Worth business
It was just about six o’clock and dozens of people had lined up at the gate of Martin House Brewery among the backdrop of downtown Fort Worth.
They were waiting to try the variety of beers that the brewery makes. There’s the Pretzel Stout, a rich stout made of pretzels; Day Break, a light, refreshing breakfast beer that tastes kind of like coconut and Riverhouse, a light, crisp, summery style saison.
Located in a plain warehouse on the east side of the city, the brewery was founded in 2012 by alumnus David Wedemeier and former student Cody Martin. Each Thursday, they open up the brewery to the public and guests sample the beers.
“All the people that come out are just people that love beer and love being around it,” Martin said.
The small but thriving brewery has its origins here at UTD in the friendship between Wedemeier and Martin. The two would often hang out and drink together during their undergrad. After Martin transferred to UT Arlington to finish his degree in environmental engineering, they still kept in touch. Wedemeier graduated from UTD in 2002 and finished his MBA in 2005.
Eventually, Martin moved out of the country with his wife, traveling the world and coming back to settle in Florida for a while. There, he worked on large-scale remediation systems, which remove pollution from groundwater.
“I really kind of went on a search trying to figure out what I wanted to do and came across civil engineering, which was perfect for me,” said Martin.
All the while, he experimented with home brewing and applied this knowledge to making beer. Then, in 2011, Martin decided to quit his job and to start a brewery. He said he knew it had to be in Texas when he got the idea and called Wedemeier about his plan.
“I was like ‘Oh yeah, sure you are Cody, that sounds like a pretty cool plan,’” Wedemeier said. “At first, not really believing him, I said, ‘You know, why don’t you move in with me and my wife while you guys are looking for a house.’”
It was at that house — occupied by six people, two dogs and a one-legged parrot — that Martin was experimenting with new recipes and testing out pilot beers while Wedemeier tasted them for another perspective and learned about the beer business. The first beer Martin created was the Imperial Texan – a strong, hoppy ale.
“I decided this was a viable business opportunity, so I said ‘Let’s get together and make this thing a reality.’ So, it kind of went from there,” said Wedemeier.
When they first started out, they had only three employees and eight customers, but since then, they’ve grown to 10 workers and have about 400 customers statewide.
Wedemeier is now the sales and marketing director for the company, while Martin is the head brewer, creating the recipes and making the beer. For the past two years, the two friends and the company had to learn how to do a variety of things that were a bit out of their area, from filling kegs to deliver the next day to running a full fledged sales organization.
Then there was making the beer itself, which Martin had no trouble doing with his past experience in environmental engineering. In the process of making, he operates the giant conal-shaped machinery that funnels the four main ingredients – barley, water, hops and yeast – to make the beer.
The company website said it considers its products “Adventure Beer”, which is reflected in a passion for outdoor activities. Wedemeier said that he and other employees bike, run and even sometimes kayak to work every once in a while.
“Staying away from traditional styles is one of our unique attributes and we’re also heavily tied into to our brand values,” said Wedemeier. “Part of that too is our lifestyle. Our brewery is located directly on the river in, Fort Worth and so we’re on the Trinity Trails, so being outside and adventurous is a big part of our brand.”
Overall, the company has a laid-back culture, so friends of the company come to help volunteer. Another important aspect is for the business is community involvement. They hold tours and rent their brewery out for events.
“It’s definitely a very community-based business,” said Martin. “A large part of our clientele are people specifically from not only Fort Worth but our own neighborhood. Some of our volunteers live right down the street.”
Moving forward, Wedemeier said the company plans to expand to all of Texas within the next couple of years, and perhaps, eventually expanding to become a national brand.
“It’s mostly about just doing a good job in Dallas-Fort Worth and then Austin and San Antonio as well, and then dipping our toes before we look elsewhere,” he said.