Build It, Brew It, and They Will Come
By Lance Higdon
5 Stones Artisan Brewing has pursued the unbeaten brewer’s path from the start. Now, settled into their new home at the end of two dirt roads on a patch of ranchland, that commitment has become quite literal. It’s where founder Seth Weatherly plans to double down on his mission to make boundary-pushing beer that brings people together — especially, ideally, right there in the beautiful limestone building where it’s made.
Weatherly opened 5 Stones in 2013 in Cibolo, working on a three-barrel setup to produce imaginative, adjunct-rich beers in share-friendly 750 milliliter bottles. Weatherly tasted success quickly, taking home a silver medal for Aloha Piña (a pineapple-and-jalapeno-augmented blonde ale) from the Great American Brew Festival in 2014 and putting 5 Stones on shelves across Central Texas. In the same year, which saw an anniversary party crowd of 400 stretch the brewery’s serving (and sitting) capacity to the limit, 5 Stones started looking for a bigger home.
The search lasted for three years, but ultimately Weatherly settled on a 19-acre tract off FM 1836, just outside New Braunfels. The brewery has gone from three barrels to 15, built to spec by California’s BrewBilt Manufacturing, situated behind a taproom running the length of the entrance. Elsewhere, in an excellent exercise in economy, Weatherly has built a sit-and-sip setup on the roof of the barrel room. With its custom woodworking and bucolic wooded views, It’s not hard to foresee the 5 Stones taproom becoming a place of pale ale pilgrimage.
5 Stones has been and remains a family affair for the Weatherlys. Seth’s daughters Ashley and Taylor work for him now, and multiple other relations have lent a hand at one time or another. In addition to longtime employee Andrew Meyer, 5 Stones recently hired Garrett Crowell, the former head brewer at Austin’s mixed-fermentation farmhouse mecca Jester King, to assist with several projects around the brewery — including chasing down some microbes.
As Crowell described it, he foraged the property for various flora and fauna that had come into bloom — flowers, juniper berries, freshly-sprouted leaves — and pitched them into a small batch of wort. Using what he described as “really old and simple techniques” he nurtured the batch along, suppressing the bacteria and encouraging the yeast, until 5 Stones had what Crowell characterized as an “almost Dupont-esque, close to a classic Belgian saison yeast.”
The yeasts were captured and sent to a Canadian lab, where three separate strains will be isolated and returned to 5 Stones. That means Weatherly will be able to brew wild styles or stable standards using fermentation agents from his own backyard.
More changes are coming. Weatherly revealed that 5 Stones will change is packaging: going forward, beers will come in a combination of 4-packs, cans, and kegs, the latter of which will be mostly available exclusively in the taproom. The can plans include staples like Manmosa and Back To Bridge City, as a brew called Shepherd Boy (“We brewed it as a kölsch and then dry-hopped the living crap out of it,” Weatherly laughed), all of which will allow you to enjoy 5 Stones in single servings.
The move kept the brewery out of commission for four months; at the time of this writing, the new facility has only been in production for a little over a week, and besides the sneak peek offered by a 5K beer run the property on October 14, there’s no date yet for an official opening. There’s a lot of uncertainty for sure, but when a brewery name-checks the Biblical showdown between David and Goliath it’s no surprise that its workers can see the reward beyond the risk.
“Time and time again, he’ll bounce ideas off me and be like ‘I don’t want this to be a gimmick. I don’t want this to be something to just get people’s attention,’ and I think beer kind of needs that right now,” Crowell said. “You need people who are making things that are intentional and honest and not a cash grab. I think that’s their biggest asset of what they’re going to offer: really great, honest beer.”
“The bringing down the Goliath, for us, was the opportunity to have something like this,” Weatherly said, gesturing to the property around him, “[but] as in David’s life, he fought a long time, and I think that’s just the story. Not to be too philosophical, but I don’t think the fight ever ends.”
“I think there’s a lot that that story speaks to,” he continued. “Fear is a giant in a lot of people’s lives. There’s a healthy part of fear, too. That’s wise. But there’s also a giant of fear that just paralyzes people to no action. I’ll tell you straight up, we’re scared crapless out here. We’ve put our family’s future on the line. But you’ve got to suck it up and get your freakin’ stones, if you will, and go to battle.”