Amber: Hi welcome to BusinessMakers USA, brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. Today my guest is James Hudec of Alamo Beer Company. Welcome to the show James.
James: Thank you very much.
Amber: So we’ve already found out we have a lot in common and one of those is beer, tell me about Alamo Beer Company.
James: Well Alamo Beer Company is the largest craft brewer in the city of San Antonio.
James: And the brand has been around for about 13 years.
Amber: I want to know a little bit more about the history because you told me it goes even actually far you and I were even alive.
James: Right. So the original Lone Star Brewery, which is now the San Antonio Museum of Art, had a brand that was a Vienna style Lager from 1885 to Prohibition in 1920 and so our Amber Lager that we have is a style that we kind of have reinvented that was what we think was the original Alamo Beer beer that was brewed originally in San Antonio.
Amber: I should also mention that you’re the Brewmaster there, so how did you research and go about coming up with this recipe?
James: The City of San Antonio and the library has a lot of historical data on early beer industry here. We didn’t find any recipe sheets but from what was going on in San Antonio at the time and some marketing – some photographs of some marketing that they had at the time – we could extrapolate and figure out what the beer looked like in a glass because we have black and white photos and probably what they were using to brew the beer with.
Amber: Like what was available at the time.
Amber: Also, you have been doing this for a while; give me your history of brewing.
James: When I was a high schooler I got in trouble – just a minor little infraction – but my mother has this very, very wonderful sense of humor, so for my 19th birthday she gave me a home brew kit. And I thought that that was the best thing that ever happened to me. So I’d save up my money and go down and buy home brew supplies from the local home brewer supply store and at some point I got rather good at it in college and then got my first brewing job; I was the first brewer for the first microbrewery in Austin back in 1994 called Hill Country Brewing Company.
Amber: I was going to say what was the name of that one. And then you’ve been all over the country really brewing beer.
James: I have, and Germany too. I do not have a degree in any of this; I have a Music degree, a Vocal Performance degree and a Business degree.
Amber: You’re unfolding like an onion here James.
James: Right. And what I wanted to do was I wanted to go out and move to Chicago and live in the big city – or Houston – and work behind the scenes doing theater management. That didn’t work out because I got sucked in by the beer trade and because of that background at school I already spoke German, so it was a really easy transition for me to go to Germany. I lived for 2 years in Nuremberg and worked at a small microbrewery there under the castle and learned how to make traditional style German lager beer.
Amber: So how do you think your experience with German lagers that are more traditional than what’s going on in American craft beer right now translates to your work at Alamo Beer Company?
James: Well I think that what’s going on in the industry right now actually has its roots in very traditional style recipes. Sour beers are actually not an invention of American brewers.
Amber: Oh gosh. Moving on actually to what Alamo Beer Company is different, what do you think is different about you guys?
James: I think we’re different in that we are – we’re one of those breweries that is kind of holding on to old style, old world traditions that at one time made our city known the world over. I have books from the early 20th century that talk about how great the water was here and how great the breweries were here and what we were doing in San Antonio. We’re kind of holding on to that brewer tradition.
Amber: That’s great.
James: That’s historic for here. There were a lot of – for Houston too and Dallas – not so much in Austin – but after the Civil War ended there were a lot of immigrants that came into the state. And a lot of those immigrants – especially between San Antonio in Houston – were Germans, Czechs and Poles and you still see a lot of those family names in the communities between here and there today. And all of those immigrants that came into this state had this vast thirst for beer and some of them even brought brew kettles with them. You see companies like Shiner – the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, TX – that was a brewery that was put together and was opened in 1911 I believe from a German Brewmaster that emigrated to the state.
Amber: I’m just really curious of your vision as an actual Brewmaster of the future of craft beer in America.
James: I think right now we’re seeing some consolidation. We’ve seen it in bigger craft brewers getting absorbed by larger beer conglomerates. I think we’re going to continue to see that trend over the next couple of years. I think 2018 is going to be very, very interesting to where I think you’re going to see a lot of the smaller – or actually mid-level breweries who don’t really have economies of scale to justify lowering costs kind of either get into trouble, sell out or go by the wayside. I think you’re going to see a lot more consolidation in the industry and I think you’re going to keep seeing more of the smaller brewers open their doors. And when I mean small I mean 2500 square feet, 3000 square foot brewers who sell what we call hyper local; so they’re making beer onsite, they’re selling beer onsite and then they might sell some beer within pretty much a walking distance from their brewery. Alamo is unique in that we’re big enough that we’re already positioned in the market, especially through our packaged products through grocery store chains, to really have an impact on the market while keeping our price in line and our costs down.
Amber: Which brings me to the last question; what is the future of Alamo Beer Company?
James: I think we’re going to keep on growing. I think we’re going to see some different products and product mixes in the market without deviating too far away from out Alamo Constitution of what we’re all about. You’re going to see cans, you’re going to see a more diversified portfolio; I think more brewers like Alamo are going to try to be more of a beverage company instead of just a beer company.
John: Meaning that to keep relevant in a very crowded market that you are going to see more companies, Alamo being one of them, probably get into more diversified types of brands, not only just beer.
Amber: For example James?
James: For example I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I might incriminate myself.
Amber: Okay. Well thank you so much for joining us.
James: You’re welcome.
Amber: We’ll have to check in a few months and see what these mystery beverages might be.
James: Any time.
Amber: It sounds like you’re an apologize later kind of person.
James: Right, very much so.
Amber: I like that, that’s why we’re friends. Thanks for joining us James.
James: Thank you very much.
Amber: Once again this is BusinessMakers USA coming to you from San Antonio, Texas, I’m Amber Ambrose and thanks for watching.
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