I was having such a good time with my friends at St. Elmo’s Brewing Co. that it took me a second to realize who the man standing beside our table was. It finally dawned on me that is was Tim Bullock, one of the owners who had graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the brewery and beer I was enjoying so much. It was a typical Winter day in Austin, Texas. So it was 75 degrees and gorgeous out on St. Elmo’s spacious, picnic table filled patio area. Tim and I had to go inside to find a quiet spot.
“Get you a beer?” Tim asked as he was already heading behind the bar. Why yes, I think I’ll have a beer. After pouring me a snifter of Amarillo, their newly released American IPA, Tim spilled his guts about his journey to a guy he’d only met once for 10 seconds and shared three emails with.
TC: How does St. Elmo’s stand out in the increasingly saturated Austin beer scene?
TB: I don’t think Austin is saturated at all. If you compare it to Portland, which is a similar size, they have nearly double the amount of breweries Austin does. There is a long way to go before we even get close to too many breweries here. With St. Elmo’s, my partner Bryan and I really wanted it to be the local neighborhood brewery. We wanted to serve the community right around our area. There aren’t a lot breweries south of downtown that you can walk to, grab a great beer, have a meal, and just relax at. We got incredibly lucky with the space. We looked at probably less than 10 locations before we decided on this location.
TC: You and Bryan both used to be at Austin Beer Works. What made you make the leap from working at an already established, well liked brewery to opening your own?
TB: When I met Bryan, it was clear that we were similar in that we both wanted to acquire skills. We weren’t just working a job. He was a brewer and I was working the bar area in the front of the house. We both learned a lot in our time at ABW, but it got to the point where we wanted to branch out creatively and do our own thing. He and I working together seemed like a natural partnership.
TC: How did you decide on the styles of beers you were going to serve? Is there a fully vetted creative process, or do you basically brew what you like?
TB: More we brew what we like. The recipes are very dialed in for sure, but there’s no official process we go through. Bryan is one of the few brewers I know that still homebrews. Not many people want to put in a 10-hour day then go home and do what they just did all day for fun. That’s really where most of or recipes come from is his home brew batches. That’s why I think we we’re able to produce such quality recipes.
TC: So what does St. Elmo’s look like 5 years from now? Nationwide distribution or are you content with your slice of Austin?
TB: I think we’re content with our slice of Austin. Like I said before, we really want to be your neighborhood brewery, serving the community around us. Of course, we’ll grow and expand more into local markets. You can expect to see us at more taps around Austin, but it isn’t our primary goal.
As Tim and I were talking, the line behind the bar kept getting longer and longer as several large groups showed up all at once. No doubt my tweet that Fine Pint was there brought everyone out in droves. That, or the amazing beer. 50/50 really. Tim excused himself to help behind the bar, but not before introducing me to his partner, Bryan Winslow, who was cleaning kegs on the brewery floor. Bryan was also nice enough to chat with me for a bit.
TC: I asked Tim this same question, but what is your process for coming up with new beer recipes?
BW: I like to experiment, but I really focus on recipes that hit styles on the nose. I worked hard to develop our Kolsch recipe. Recipes change over time of course, but we like to provide the same, or as close to the same beer as we came every time.
TC: So a lot of effort goes into reproducing recipes each time.
BW: Yeah absolutely. We like to try new hops that are in season, and I’m constantly tweaking recipes, but consistency is key.
St. Elmo’s Brewing Co. is a damn fine addition to the Austin brewery scene. Tim and Bryan really hit the nail on the head with what they set out to accomplish. Great beer, in a great space, with an amazing food truck, Soursop, permanently parked out back. If you haven’t been out yet, you need to fix that, and quick. If you’re lucky, Bryan might even give you a sample of the new kettle soured raspberry tart he’s working on.