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Armadillo Ale Works: Denton’s beer startup story

Armadillo Ale Works: Denton’s beer startup story

Armadillo Ale Works: Denton’s beer startup story
January 28
09:25 2014

Morgan Gentry // Staff Writer

UNT alumni and co-founders of Armadillo Ale Works, Yianni “Yanni” Arestis and Bobby Mullins, are hoping to join a growing list of independent, locally owned businesses by producing one of Denton’s first breweries.

With the success of its two first beers—Quakertown Stout and Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale—Armadillo Ale Works is a rising name among North Texas breweries.

The idea of starting a brewery in Denton popped into Mullins’ head while working for Saint Arnold Brewery in Houston from 2008-2010. The brewery gave Mullins a better understanding of the craft, what it takes to run a brewery and the steps to mastering the production of good beer.

“I really missed Denton [and] I think every home brewer kind of dreams of opening their own brewery one day,” Mullins said. “And I felt I had a really good grasp by now on how that worked.”

Mullins pitched the idea to his good friend, and now co-founder, Arestis, who was in the midst of gaining his MBA in strategic communications at UNT at the time.

The two clearly were on the same wavelength. Not long after Mullins returned to Denton in 2010, they accumulated a handful of ideas, a few home-brewed recipes and handled the legalities, such as branding. The duo eventually formed Armadillo Ale Works and began looking for funding for their business plan.

“Shortly after, we entered the New Venture Creation Contest through the [UNT’s College of Business] Murphy Center [in 2010] and it helped us get some feedback on our business plan,” Mullins said. “Originally we were gonna do a group pub, but then that helped us decide maybe we don’t want to do the restaurant type of thing and just focus on beer more.”

After winning third place in the contest, the two began doing testers for their beers with friends and family. The tastings began as an underground marketing plan and created a mystique around Armadillo Ale Works, Mullins said. The response was encouraging and led them to start serving samples of their test batches with Denton’s Tex gallery, a cooperative art space with a goal to discover artists of all walks, in late 2010 and early 2011.

Denton’s support

Eventually the secret was out and the home-brewed beer was a hit. Working with nearby businesses, bars and events, the two were making a name for themselves and gained a strong local following.

They also had a successful Kickstarter campaign in early 2011, gaining $34,002 from those who believed in what they were creating.

“A lot of people saw the dream we were working hard for and offered help, networking opportunities and encouragement,” Arestis said.

Progress was moving but the guys still didn’t have a Texas license for brewing and since the company wasn’t able to sell their beers on the market yet, they chose to craft a different kind of drink—soda.

With two, all-natural, hand-crafted sodas, Bee Knees Lemonade and Claw Foot Ginger Cream Ale, they stayed productive by producing tasty sodas in the basement of Andy’s, one of Denton’s bars on the square, throughout 2012.

By now, Armadillo Ale was able to raise more money, gain momentum and work up a bigger buzz around North Texas.

Deep Ellum Brewing Company 

It wasn’t long before Deep Ellum Brewery in Dallas reached out to Mullins and Arestis. Before the owner of DEB, John Reardon, proposed to get their feet off the ground and allow Armadillo to use their equipment, Mullins was volunteering and assisting with the brewery for Deep Ellum, special event planner Zachary Fickey said.

Fickey first met the Armadillo guys when the agreement to collaborate in the same facility was reached. Anyone who wants to get a business going will acquire a dedicated work ethic, which Fickey definitely saw in Mullins and Arestis.

“We really wanted to help out,” Fickey said. “They started off like us, young guys trying to get their feet wet. I’d love to see them bring beer into Denton sooner than later.”

The agreement was in the best interest of both companies and granted Armadillo Ale with a keg and their first commercial batch of beer—Quakertown Stout. The agreement also carved a new path for the Texas’ beer industry, naming Armadillo Ale Works and Deep Ellum Brewers the first North Texas Brewery collaboration.

“Quakertown Stout is a slamming concoction of two row barley, brown malt, dark wheat, oats, roasted barley, Blackprinz malt, and the most robust maple syrup we could get our hands on,” according to Armadillo Ale’s website.

Not too long after their first batch, Armadillo Ale had a successful launch party at Oak Street Draft House in March 2013. The bar was over-capacity, filled with family, friends and local supporters as the duo was drowned in praise and congratulations from the patrons.

Where they are now

In 2013, the company shipped their beer around DFW, Houston and Austin, as their brews were sold in bars, stores and restaurants. Armadillo Ale works even began an ambassador program for interns looking into the brewing business.

They also added another successful ale to their list, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale. From Paschall Bar to Midway Mart, Kroger, El Guapo’s, and even Cupboards Natural Foods and World Markets—Armadillo Ale Works has become a familiar face in North Texas beer aisles.

Rachel Harvey, a patient care technician at Denton’s Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, isn’t much of a beer drinker but quickly fell in love with the green and orange cans that were lined up in Kroger. She liked that it was strong with a slight sweetness and not as hoppy as she was expecting.

“I like the beer because it’s less like a beer and more like an art,” she said. “As a non-beer drinker I was surprised at how much depth that specific ale has.”

Prices vary for the Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale and Quakertown Stout, whether in a can, a bottle or a mug. Their beers are sold in over 40 different locations around the area and have even been used in some of Paschall’s signature drinks.

As 2014 unfolds, the guys at Armadillo Ale Works continue to cater to their love for Denton and beer. Getting closer to the first brewery in Denton doesn’t seem to be too far away.

“We found a few investors to help us make that happen, and just need to find a few more to seal the deal.” Arestis said. “That’s what we’re looking forward to, being able to go to work everyday at a brew in Denton.”

Beer information courtesy of Armadillo Aleworks. Graphic by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor

Beer information courtesy of Armadillo Ale works. Graphic by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor

Feature photo: Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Yianni Arestis and Co-Founder, Chief Brewing Officer Bobby Mullins having a cheers at the Quakertown Stout launch party on March 1, 2013 at the Oak St. Drafthouse. Photo courtesy of Haley Mullins

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