Just another Freetail Brewing site


That’s not your keg: Some thoughts on deposits, boycotts, and everything in between.

A fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of kegs owned by Freetail Brewing Co.

So here I am again, about to embark on a long-winded blog post about a topic that may in fact be bad for my own well-being in the long-run. It won’t be the first time, hopefully it won’t be the last.

If you haven’t heard by now, a handful of Houston-area bars have agreed to boycott beer from Silver Eagle Distributors over a recent increase in keg deposit fees. Some of the breweries that Silver Eagle distributes: Saint Arnold, Karbach, Firestone Walker, Sierra Nevada, 8th Wonder, Rahr, Six Point, Anheuser-Busch, Modelo, and… you guessed it, San Antonio’s own Freetail Brewing Co.

I’ll start this out by saying that I’m well aware the opinion that follows may result in my beer never again being sold at any of these bars engaged in the boycott, and I’m willing to accept that. I’m willing to accept that perhaps my opinion even means that I can’t sustain distribution in Houston at all. I accept that too, because this is a sword I’m willing to fall on for the industry I love. I’ve always prided Freetail in our transparency and honesty to our suppliers, business customers, peers, and fellow beer drinkers. That’s disclaimer #1.

Disclaimer #2. I understand and I can sympathize with the perspective all parties involved. I’ve paid deposits for other breweries’ beer, and I’ve collected deposits from wholesalers, retailers and consumers alike. I’ve been a part of each side of the transaction. I get it.

I first heard of this story as it was relayed to me by our salesman on the ground hearing a rumor that I confirmed directly with one of the retailers, confirmed with Silver Eagle, and confirmed with a fellow brewer in the Silver Eagle portfolio. My initial reaction was to be concerned from a business perspective. Our new production brewery, and especially our Houston distribution, is so young that hiccups like these have major impacts on our financial well-being and viability. Putting those concerns aside, I thought to myself: “I get it… and I don’t think anyone is really wrong here.”

But I’ve come to change my opinion, and while I have a lot of respect for folks like Ben Fullelove (Petrol Station) and Kevin Floyd (Hay Merchant) and what they’ve done for craft beer in Houston, I respectfully disagree with them on this issue.

Disclaimer #3: if this dispute were just about advance notice of deposit increases, I would concede that point and agree with those with the complaint. But that isn’t the crux of the debate, the debate is over the fact that keg deposit fees are increasing, and may increase in the future. Bars don’t like it because it’s an additional upfront cash outlay, and that cash is best suited elsewhere. I can understand this perspective, but it doesn’t make it the only viewpoint and it doesn’t make it the correct one.

Disclaimer #4: this dispute actually has nothing to do with me other than the fact that my beer isn’t purchased anymore. I didn’t raise my deposit amount that I charge to my wholesalers, so I’m not the reason the deposits went up. However, I’m one of the brewers most impacted by this because as one of Silver Eagle Houston’s smallest supplier’s, most of my volume is at the same craft-centric accounts involved in this boycott. Maybe that’s why I don’t have an issue falling on this sword: I’m already shut out of all these places for a reason that has nothing to do with me anyway, so what’s to lose?

A keg deposit, is just that: a deposit. Just like any other deposit, when you return the item in the condition it was received (or, in the case of kegs, covered in beer and other miscellaneous things), you get your deposit back. The reason we have keg deposits is because kegs are extremely expensive, and keg loss is a major issue in the beer industry that costs small, independent craft brewers MILLIONS OF DOLLARS every year. (The Brewers Association, which full disclosure, I am a current Board Member of, has estimated that lost and stolen kegs cost craft brewers between $5.3 and $15.8 million annually.) The truth of the matter is that in almost all cases, the cost of a keg deposit is significantly less than the replacement value of the keg. The last order of kegs I made, the total cost of which was as much as a brand new Mercedes-Benz (and not an entry level model), came out to $131.62/keg after accounting for production, embossing, screen printing, palletizing and shipping. To really eliminate keg loss/theft, the market really should be charging a deposit fee significantly higher than the replacement cost of the keg to incentivize the retailer/individual to return it. So long as you are only paying a $50 deposit for something worth $131.62, why would you ever return it? (I know the answer to this question: they get returned because most bars are run by trustworthy people who see more value in selling more beer than owning stolen kegs).

But we don’t charge deposits that ensure maximum returns. The market charges a rate that is less than replacement cost off the contract of trust that has been established between the brewer, the wholesaler, the retailer and consumers in cases where they can buy kegs. The amount of the deposit is set by the brewer at a level that reflects the level of risk the brewer is willing to accept that his kegs might get lost. As losses mount, some brewers may feel compelled to increase that deposit amount to cover those losses. Remember: this costs breweries millions of dollars a year, from the global giants to the smallest breweries.

Some people have asked: why not just punish the bars who are losing the kegs instead of everyone? Well… they are. Only bars that don’t return kegs end up losing their deposit. Bars that return kegs, get their deposit back. If they have another order, that deposit can be applied to the next purchase. I’ve had instances where only paid $5 for a keg of beer because we had four shells to return and we were only buying one keg. In other instances, we were buying more than normal, so we had to put down new deposits. Some people have said “you only get your deposit back when you decide not to sell anymore beer.” But that’s how all deposits work. If you rent an apartment, you only get your deposit back when you move out.

Others have asked, why not only charge the higher deposit amount for the kegs with higher deposits? That would be one way to do things, but in my opinion it creates an accounting quagmire that isn’t worth the trouble. If Scott’s bar is carrying Saint Arnold and wants to buy a keg of Freetail next week, the bar doesn’t have to worry about if there is a difference in the deposit – they get credit for the same deposit amount. This makes things nice and simple for both the wholesaler and the retailer. In my time buying beer from other breweries, the toughest part about managing my outstanding keg deposits was keeping track which ones were are various price levels. Having them all the same price made things a lot easier for me.

Lastly, many have said this is about greed from Silver Eagle. The reality is that Silver Eagle pays keg deposits too. Every week when they come pick beer up from me, I charge them a deposit on kegs and give them credit for returns. If they never return a keg, they lose their deposit. The system of deposits rolling downhill keeps accountability on the person who last “rented” the keg. If Specs, for example, sells a keg to Joe Blow, they are going to collect a deposit. If you don’t return the keg, you don’t get the deposit back. Specs is free to charge whatever price for the deposit they want, since they are responsible for getting that keg back to the wholesaler or they will lose their deposit. If Joe Blow loses it, he is on the hook. If Specs loses it, they are on the hook. If Silver Eagle loses it, they are on the hook to me. When anyone loses it, the brewery is on the hook because the deposit didn’t cover the cost of the keg.

[Note, not discussed here is the topic of bars that hold kegs to age, sometimes for years. This has a real cost to breweries to. We expect a keg to turn over 10-12 times a year, so a keg out of commission for years at a time means it needs to be replaced. I'm not saying this practice needs to stop, but it is something to be aware of]

In the end, this is a nuanced situation that doesn’t have easy answers that boil down to “damn the man!”. In this case, “damn the man” is actually hurting Freetail, Saint Arnold, Karbach, Rahr, 8th Wonder, etc., because we are the ones who rely on these bars to sell our beer and keep us in business.

I won’t be responding to comments to this post because our blog has major spam problems right now and comments get lost. I will, however, respond to any comments posted in the Beer Advocate Southwest Forum in this thread. I’m committed to transparent business practices and am more than happy to engage in a discussion on the topic. I invite any retailers who disagree to engage with me too. Some of you have my cell number, reach out, or let’s talk on the BA forum. There may be something I am missing and my mind is always open to new perspectives.




May 20.

What a difference a year makes. The top photo is from May 20, 2014. The top was taken just a few minutes ago. Thanks to all of you who have been part of this wild ride with us!

Freetail SA Beer Week Events

San Antonio Beer Week draws near and we have a full slate of events scheduled to celebrate and honor the growing craft beer culture in San Antonio. The scene has come a long way since we opened in 2008 as the second operating brewery in SA (tip of the hat here to our good friends at Blue Star Brewing Co.. Joey Villarreal started Blue Star in 1996 and San Antonio beer culture would look vastly different without the foundation he laid).

Without further ado, here is our list of Beer Week Events!

  • Saturday 03/21 – SA Beer Week Kick Off Party. Main Plaza, downtown San Antonio. San Antonio breweries will take over all the taps in Main Plaza and we will hoist a brewers’ toast at 7:15 followed by live music from Cryin’ DT Buffkin and the Bad Breath. Free to attend, you just need to buy the beer. http://www.sanantoniobeerweek.com/2015-events/2015/3/21/san-antonio-beer-week-kick-off-party
  • Monday 03/23 – Texas Beer & Cheese Pairing. Freetail Brewing Co.-1604 Brewpub location. Join us as head brewer Nick Adcock takes you on a journey pairing our beers with 4 artisan cheeses from CKC Farms and Blanco Brazos Valley Cheese. Tickets are $20, limited to 30 seats, for sale now at the brewpub on 1604. http://www.sanantoniobeerweek.com/2015-events/2015/3/23/texas-cheese-freetail-beer-pairing
  • Tuesday 03/24 – Southtown Progressive Beer Dinner. Take a walk through the historic Southtown neighborhood as we embark on a progressive beer dinner with stops at The Friendly Spot, Liberty Bar, Stella Public House and Blue Star Brewing Co. for a course and a beer at each stop. Only 20 seats, tickets are $40 each available only at our S Presa tasting room. http://www.sanantoniobeerweek.com/2015-events/2015/3/24/southtown-progressive-beer-dinner
  • Wednesday 03/25 – Flying Saucer Bourbon Barrel Aged Local Coffee Stout and keep the glass night. The Saucer will be tapping their keg of Bourbon Barrel Aged Local Coffee Stout and we have developed a unique glass that will only be offered at this event starting at 7pm. http://www.sanantoniobeerweek.com/2015-events/2015/3/25/flying-saucer-brewery-night-freetail
  • Thursday 03/26 – Piñata Protest Launch Concert at the Empire Theater. We are launching our collaboration beer with San Antonio’s own Piñata Protest with a free concert at the Empire Theater. Unfortunately, it’s already sold out. Fortunately, you may still be able to win some VIP tickets. Stay tuned to various social media for details. http://www.sanantoniobeerweek.com/2015-events/2015/2/26/59l9iv5q0uldgqnmo78ppx1xg4pea2
  • Friday 03/27 – Big Hops Growler Station (Huebner & Broadway) Bourbon Barrel Aged Local Coffee Stout tapping. Big Hops Huebner and Broadway will be cracking into their keg of Bourbon Barrel Aged Local Coffee Stout starting at 7pm. http://www.sanantoniobeerweek.com/2015-events/2015/3/27/freetail-special-release-tapping
  • Saturday 03/28 – Tower of Sour featuring Wood-Aged Beer Q&A with Jester King Craft Brewery – 3pm at Freetail 1604 Brewpub. The tradition continues as we dedicate one of our tap towers at the brewpub to sour beers. We will be featuring Peche’cus, Endymion, Makaria and the debut of Seiza, beer from the last remaining unblended barrel from our original sour program at the brewpub. We will also have two beers from our friends at Jester King Craft Brewery and maybe a few other surprises. We will also be joined by Jester King Head Brewer Garrett Crowell and Barrel Program Head Adrienne Ballou to engage in a Q&A panel with our Head of Brewing Operations Jason Davis and Head Brewer Nick Adcock to discuss the philosophy, approach and technique of making wood-aged beers. This is a no cost event, other than the cost of the beers you order. http://www.sanantoniobeerweek.com/2015-events/2015/3/27/tower-of-sour
  • Saturday 03/28 – 5 Pint Pub Crawl 2015. A bus crawl featuring stops at 5 San Antonio breweries hosted by Appliance Liquidation Outlet. The crawl visits 5 breweries, treating participants to a pint glass souvenir from each brewery visited, custom wood crate for your pint glasses, lunch, and dinner. http://www.sanantoniobeerweek.com/2015-events/2015/3/28/5-pint-brew-crawl-2015
  • Sunday 03/29 – SA Beer Week Closing Ceremonies. As the capstone event for SABW, the Closing Ceremonies will conclude the week in style. It’s a beer festival-style get together that showcases all of the amazing San Antonio area breweries in one location. This year’s Closing Ceremonies will be hosted at the Pearl Brewery. Follow the link for more details. http://www.sanantoniobeerweek.com/2015-events/2015/2/26/obbquwx17nv5pb6yh81ml3q4e7cq6h

Cheers to San Antonio and Craft Beer!

Bourbon Barrel Aged Local Coffee Stout Release Details

Back in… I think 2009… we released bourbon barrel aged La Muerta. Much to our dismay, it eventually turned sour and was worthy of only one thing: pouring down the drain. It was then that I vowed NO MORE BOURBON BARREL AGED BEER! (Even though I believe we did do one more barrel aged Old Bat Rastard if memory serves me correctly, and we have done one-offs in 5-gallon bourbon barrels sourced from craft distillers).

But, you know, times change. We all get older, some of us mature. Since those olden times, we’ve built a new brewery and we (feel like we) have a better grasp of the barrel-aging game.

By now, you should be familiar with Local Coffee Stout. If you aren’t, go back in time on this blog and educate thyself. Then, go find a bottle and enjoy it. It’s FREAKIN’ DELICIOUS. When we were conceptualizing Local Coffee Stout, we knew we had to age this in bourbon barrels. And thus began a quest in which Head Brewer Nick Adcock (one of 3 head brewers we have… because we are like a hydra) searched far and wide to find us enough barrels to make it worthwhile. Lo, Nick found us a dozen freshly-emptied Woodford Reserve barrels and in went Local Coffee Stout for a brief one-month stint. Why only one month? Lots of breweries make a point of emphasizing how much time their beer sits in their wooden bourbon-soaked tombs. To be honest, given the balance of bourbon-barrel and base beer character we were hoping to achieve, we found that one month was really all it took. Anything longer would have allowed the bourbon to dominate and overpower the coffee character, which sort of defeats the purpose of aging a coffee beer. The key for us here is balance. With this beer, we aren’t trying to present a preeminent dissertation on bourbon and beer but rather a nice balance of the character of our original beer, that excellent coffee flavor, and the bourbon barrel.

Some tasting notes: if you pull this straight out of your fridge, the bourbon aroma will be faint. Let it warm up, and the fruity American white oak character of the bourbon will come through along with a heavy char and the typical vanilla accents. Coffee is still present but definitely in the background. Take a drink and you’re met with a rich, creamy mouthfeel, roast bitterness offset by the sweetness of the coffee and a slight smokiness from the bourbon. Subtle alcohol heat that doesn’t overwhelm (a pleasant result of limited barrel aging time).  Super Head Brewer Jason Davis says “it’s like drinking bourbon filled chocolate.”

So… where do you get it? Glad you asked.

For OFF-PREMISE BOTTLE SALES. 22oz bombers will hit the shelves this coming Tuesday, March 10. Below is a list of accounts that will receive cases. Please note, we do not have control over the price or quantity that each retailer will sell this for. We also cannot control when they will receive their allotment. It will all be on a truck to each of these accounts for sale at some point on Tuesday. Please contact the individual stores for exact details.









SPEC’S LIQUOR #69 14623 IH 35







HEB SA 39  BLANCO/1604





HEB SA12  281/1604




For ON-PREMISE DRAFT TAPPINGS: We have a limited number of kegs and we will announce each tapping as they occur. The first tapping we have to announce will be at 3pm THIS FRIDAY (that’s tomorrow) at the grand opening of Big Hops’ new location at the Hays Street Bridge. These guys are killer and we want to help them open their newest location with a bang.

For those of you who may miss the release, we will have a limited number of bottles at our two locations starting Thursday 3/12. Note, this is not a bottle release like we have done in the past. We will just have the beers on the shelf when we open. The brewpub on 1604 opens at 11am, the S Presa tasting room at 4pm


Growing & Busting at the Seams!

Hey gang, we sent out the press release below this morning and I was really excited to hit send. So much so, that I held myself back over the weekend from leaking spoilers. Bottom line: our plans are coming to fruition. We’re making beer, getting out there and selling it, and we’re expanding our reach. I’ll be back after the Press Release to talk a little bit about some of the thoughts and discussions we’ve had internally throughout this process.


(February 2, 2015) San Antonio, TX – Following a record year for beer produced, San Antonio’s Freetail Brewing Co. announces it has entered into a distribution agreement with Tri-City Distributors to carry its products in Comal, Guadalupe and Gonzales counties and will expand its existing distribution territory with Silver Eagle Distributors, the nation’s second largest beer distributor, to include Houston and surrounding areas.

After the completion of its new brewing facility just south of downtown San Antonio, Freetail began distribution of its products into the San Antonio market on October 21. Even with just a little over two months in the market, Freetail was able to post a 100% increase in beer production versus 2013 thanks to the increased capacity offered by the new facility. “This is what we worked so hard towards,” said Freetail founder and CEO Scott Metzger. “We are humbled and grateful for the fantastic reception our beers have enjoyed since we began distributing. As a born and raised San Antonian, I’m proud to make a contribution to our city’s growing culinary and artisan beverage scene.”

As it continues to grow its presence in its hometown, Freetail has also set its sights on new markets. To do so, it has partnered with New Braunfels-based Tri-City Distributors to cover Comal, Guadalupe and Gonzales counties, and the brewery will be extending its existing partnership with Silver Eagle Distributors to reach eager Houstonians.

“Our new partnership with Tri-City is exciting as it not only helps us expand our reach in the greater San Antonio metropolitan area, but it gives us greater access to the Texas hill country and the kind of outdoor activities we brew for,” explained Metzger. “The choice to primarily package our beers in environmental friendly, recyclable, aluminum cans comes from our own passion for hiking the hill country, hitting the bike trails, tubing down the river or enjoying a day on the lake.”

The roll-out into Comal, Guadalupe and Gonzales counties should take place in short order with both packaged and draught available this spring.

In reference to its move into the Houston market, the brewery describes it as inventible and obvious. “We’ve always enjoyed a great deal of support from our friends in Houston and I promised that it would be the first major market we moved into after San Antonio. Today, I’m extremely proud to make good on that promise.”

The initial roll-out into Houston will be draught-only this spring, with the full-assortment of packaged beers available in fall 2015. Look for additional details in the coming months on the official launch date in Houston.



About Freetail Brewing Co.

Freetail Brewing Co. was founded in 2008 on the pursuit of creating exciting, innovative and unique world class beer. We embrace the laid back and fun-loving Texas culture and set out to create products that mirror the lifestyle of our diverse and rapidly growing community. We believe in promoting an increased appreciation of craft products and their responsible enjoyment. For more information visit www.freetailbrewing.com.

About Silver Eagle Distributors

Silver Eagle Distributors, L.P. is the nation’s second largest beer distributor. The company employs approximately 1,400 employees that serve 16 counties in Texas through operations in Houston, San Antonio, Conroe, Cypress and Rosenberg. Silver Eagle distributes a broad selection of domestic and import brands, as well as microbrews and craft beers and several non-alcohol beverages and waters. For more information, visit www.silvereagle.com.

About Tri-City Distributors

Tri-City Distributors started out in New Braunfels, TX in 1971. Since then, Tri-City has grown into a major distributor, delivering nearly 2 million cases per year from 20 different suppliers serving Comal, Guadalupe and Gonzales counties. In 2011, the company expanded its beverage portfolio to better serve its customers, adding wine, mixers, water, vitamin drinks and teas to its product mix. Whether you’re a retailer or a brewer, Tri-City offers services that let you focus on running your business and connecting with your customers. For more information, visit www.tricitybud.com.


So that’s the news. We grew a lot in 2014, we’re expanding our reach in the greater San Antonio area with the extension to Comal, Guadalupe & Gonzales counties, and Houston… you’re finally getting some Freetail.

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been all puppy dogs and ice cream as there have been some growing pains. We went from a single brewpub location with a brewing staff of two producing a little over 1,000 barrels a year to a packaging brewery with a brewing staff of 7, a support staff of 5, running canning & bottling lines, re-building our wild ale program essentially from scratch, and doubling our annual production from 2013 in just a little over 2 months. As you can imagine, there’s been little time to catch our breath.

Along the way, we had to ask ourselves a bunch of tough questions. Not to make our six-and-a-half year-old brewery sound more grizzled than it is, but the craft beer world has changed a lot since we entered it. The expectations of craft beer drinkers, both from the casual to the experienced, have been heightened (for the better). The biggest question we asked ourselves was whether we were still relevant in the Texas craft beer dynamic. It was a tough one to ask given our history, but the answer was aligned with the same principle of staying true to ourselves and always striving to do better. We aren’t going to chase trends if they aren’t aligned with who we are. We’re going to continue to strive to make quality beers that are accessible (from a pricing perspective). We’re going to have our core “boring” beers, we’re going to have specialty “exciting” beers, because we love “boring” beers as much as we love “exciting” beers. We’re just going to be us.

Lastly, another thank you to all the folks who support us along the way. We make beer, but it’s for nothing if you aren’t out there drinking it. We are continually humbled that you give us a place at your dinner tables, your tubing trips, your gatherings with friends, and your backyard bar-b-ques. We pumped to keep it coming.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a teaser. In addition to our new seasonal can in March, we’ll be rolling out two more year-round cans soon as well. You’ll have to wait for more details there!



FT2 Bottle Release: Local Coffee Stout Sat 1/24/15

Hey friends, it’s been awhile since we’ve done one of these, and we definitely haven’t done one at the new brewery. This Saturday, Jan 24, we will host a bottle release at our new brewery on S Presa for Local Coffee Stout.

Before I get into the details of the release, let’s get into the details of this beer:

While we were undergoing construction of our new brewery at 2000 S Presa St, we noticed some activity across the street in this building at 2001 S Presa.

After a little asking around, we found out that San Antonio’s esteemed coffee shop, Local Coffee, was setting up shop with their new roasting facility, Merit Roasting Company. We immediately perked up on a couple of levels: we were pumped that continued positive development was happening down here in Roosevelt Park, we were psyched that we’d have a place to get world-class coffee every morning, and we were absolutely thrilled at the prospects of collaborating on some coffee beers. We’re not the type to throw around the term “no-brainer” a lot, but a potential collaboration with Merit fit the bill. Fortunately, Merit was just as curious and excited about us as we were about them. Merit owner, Robbie Grubbs, would poke his head in from time to time and we developed a relationship built on mutual respect for each other’s craft. Soon after, the idea of for our first collaboration, Local Coffee Stout, was born.

As we began to develop the recipe for Local Coffee Stout, our head of brewing ops, Jason Davis, was inspired by Merit and their passion for letting the beans drive the flavor profile of the coffee rather than the too-typical practice of the roast dominating. Merit provided us with a cold extract of lightly roasted El Origen coffee from Honduras. Sampling the concentrated extract gave us a deep appreciation for Merit’s craft: a brew that was full of fruit flavor (tamarind, dark fruits) without overpowering us with burnt astringency that has become the trademark flavor of mass-produced coffee grounds. We blended the extract with our stout in the cellar. Our own experience taught us that adding coffee on the hot-side of the process would result in changes to the coffee, which would have negated Merit’s efforts. The result is a coffee stout that is a little different from most coffee stouts, because this coffee is different from most coffees. Virtually all of the roast character of the finished beer comes from the malt, not the coffee. Rich coffee notes abound upon first whiff and playfully dance with the residual sweetness of the malt. Coffee stouts aren’t exactly innovative these days, but can often still be quite special. We are proud of the one we’ve created and hope it stands among the other great ones available today. Check out the video below for a more detailed look at the development and production of this beer.

As for the release:

In addition to this weekend’s release, Local Coffee Stout will be distributed throughout San Antonio in limited quantities. We will release 30 cases (360 bottles) this Saturday starting at 1:30pm. In Freetail tradition, we also invite folks to enjoy a bottleshare prior to the release starting at 10am. Important details:

  • LOCATION: The new brewery, 2000 S Presa St, San Antonio, TX 78210
  • 360 bottles
  • $9/bottle
  • Limit to be determined based on number of people in attendance at 12:30. We will have a wristband system in place
  • Bottleshare beginning at 10am
  • All bottles from the bottleshare will be picked up at 1:25pm in preparation of Open For Business at 2pm.

If you have any other questions, please find us on our company Facebook, or you can ask me on twitter @beermonkey. (The comments section of our blog gets spammed too heavily for us to really be able to respond to comments, unfortunately)





‘Tis the Season

As I am sure many people do, I find myself in a reflective mood as the year winds down and we gather with family and friends to celebrate the holidays. 2014 was a year of achievement for Freetail. We finished the completion of our new brewery, began distribution, find ourselves already in 150+ off-premise and 100+ on-premise accounts around San Antonio, and are already having to plan for expansion.

For me though, the proudest achievement is the continued growth and development of our team. For the first time, we actually have people in critical functions who actually know what they are doing, as opposed to me faking it. Instead of handful of folks wearing hundreds of hats at once, we have sharp folks in key positions to help drive our company forward. I’m forever thankful for all the folks who made getting to this point possible, and I’m thankful to have built a team now that will take us to the next level. When we relaunch our website in 2015, we plan to feature profiles of our employees as they are truly the heart and soul of our company, even moreso than our beer.

Short and sweet: thank you all for your continued support and allowing us to have dream jobs. We couldn’t do it with you! Happy Holidays!




Easy Parts & Hard Parts

What a whirlwind.

All of it. The production, the events, the promotion, the sales, the distributor relations, the branding, the media requests, the social interaction. The all of it.

Some of it is easy, most of it is fun. Some of it is hard, a very small portion of it really sucks. None of this is groundbreaking. Thousands of breweries before us, and thousands more after us, all with the same stories to tell. Very few of us were raised with beer in our blood. The vast majority of breweries in the United States are owned and operated by first-generation brewers, all of us learning on the fly.

Wait, not just learning on the fly… writing the textbook on the fly.

I’ve spent the last year serving on the Brewers Association Board of Directors with many of my heroes. The people who wrote the first chapters of the modern brewing industry textbook.  When Freetail opened 6 years ago, I was assured that this textbook was sound and solid, and I’m just as sure today. But what I know now that I didn’t know then… is that all of us who came after aren’t just footnotes tucked back in unfurled pages. No, we are writing the next chapters in the book. Further, our heroes are welcoming of the new additions and are avid readers of our work. They read intently, and not in some perverse schadenfreude sort of way. They are truly curious, and inquisitive, and more than anything else, proud. (And anyone who ever questions the motives of these folks, you’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you that these are folks who twist themselves into knots to represent the smallest of us, even if it isn’t even in their best interest)

There are easy parts… and there are hard parts. Some parts I used to think were easy, are harder now. And a lot of parts I used to think are hard, are a lot easier than I ever. Easiest among those things: never forgetting those who wrote the chapters ahead of us, and fostering those who will write the chapters after.

To pioneers and future innovators a like, cheers!


PS: Over the years, I’ve received a countless number of requests of folks starting breweries who just want an hour of time. To pick my brain, to throw their ideas at me, etc. Out of necessity I’ve turned down a lot of these requests, but I’ve always told folks to email me your questions and I will do my best to answer them for you in time. That offer still stands for anyone trying to get into this crazy business, but I now also preface my responses with, “these are just my opinions, and a lot of really successful breweries have started after me who have business models I thought were crazy!”. The point there being, none of us know anything about the future. We may have opinions about what you’re doing, but they are just our opinions, and we can easily be wrong! Don’t be afraid if your chapter in the textbook of the future is of a different form of prose or is in a completely different language. Be the one to prove everyone wrong!


La Muerta VII Details and History (So Far)

It’s that time of year again! The weather is changing ever so slowly (highs forecast ONLY in the low 80s this week!), folks are starting to contemplate their holiday plans, and the Spurs get ready to make another run to the title.

This also marks Dia de La Muerta, and the annual repost of the history of La Muerta to go with it!

Before we dig into the history, here is a run-down of the release details this year:

And here are the details you need to know for how the release will work:

  • Bottle counts: 1,200 bottles. Please note, another 1,200 bottles will be hitting distribution the following week, and bottles will be available at the S Presa tasting room when we open to the public on November 7.
  • The bottle share will start on the patio at 7:30am. We request that no one come on the patio until this time, and there should definitely be NO ALCOHOL CONSUMED ON THE PATIO PRIOR TO THE OFFICIAL START OF THE BOTTLE SHARE. This is done for our safety and yours.
  • Dia de La Muerta tap list will be available when we open at 11am. Tap list will be posted on Thursday to this blog, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Upon the start of the bottle-share, numbered and color coded wristbands will be distributed from the outside entrance to the patio. Because of the volume of bottles produced, we do not anticipate a sell-out on the first day, but we cannot predict what the turnout will be. Wristbands will determine the order of purchasing.
  • Sales of bottles will begin at 9:30am and there will be two registers open to conduct transactions. Both registers will accept cash or credit cards, but we will state that cash is always appreciated and helps things move more smoothly.
  • Bottles will be $13.50/each + tax. Depending on the number of people who show up, we reserve the right to limit the number of bottles that can be purchased. If we do institute a limit, the lowest it will be is 4/bottles of each beer per person. Note: prices do not include sales tax, which will be added to your total.
  • At 10:35am we will make a 10 minute announcement and at 10:45am the bottle share will need to come to an end so that we may prepare for open of business at 11am.

If you have any questions, hit me on twitter at @beermonkey or @freetailbrewing

Thanks everyone. This is one of my favorite days for a lot of reasons, the biggest one being the organic way this event has grown up. I thank you from the bottom of my support over the years and I look forward to seeing and hanging out with you Saturday!

Read on for the history of La Muerta and details on this year’s liquid.

***Note, this is essentially a re-post of what I put together for the La Muerta V release in 2012. I’ve merely updated with new data.*** 

The seventh iteration of Dia de La Muerta day looms, and I thought it was a good time to reflect on and share how this all came to be.

When Freetail was still in its planning phases, we knew (like pretty much any brewery that opened since 2004 or so) we wanted to brew an imperial stout. A perfectly healthy admiration for skulls & Dia de los Muertos coupled with half of my DNA rooted in Mexican-American culture led me to a name for our imp-y before we had a recipe: La Muerta. I had grand ideas for a line of similarly named brews. Maybe El Muerto could be a supercharged version, a Double Imperial Stout, if you will. Muertito could be a smaller version, meant for more casual sipping by a winter fire. While these other ideas have not yet (and may never) come to fruition, La Muerta was a concept with legs.

Back then, head brewer Jason Davis and I used to have regular brainstorming sessions. What did we want to brew? What ideas toed the proverbial crazy line? Could we pull all that off or did we need more tanks? How the hell would yeast management work? While not every idea from those early meetings ever came into being (or are even stuck in our memories anywhere), they did go on to help mold the general direction of our brewing and how the brewery needed to be set up to supply such ambitions. It was in one of these meetings that I told Jason about La Muerta.

Jason, the evil brewing genius he is, decided to venture slightly from what we were seeing on the national scene where imp-ys tended to be on the sweeter side, with alcohol content going up but apparent attenuation seemingly going down. Pulling ideas from a previous homebrew test batch, we would leave some sweetness, but focus more on the chocolate characteristics along with another that would be specific to our imperial stout–the addition of rauch malt which now makes up almost 20% of the grain bill. Over the years, my occasional glance at review websites reveals comments like “surprisingly smokey”. Well, I can say that it should no longer come as a surprise to anyone… there’s a whole lot of smoked malt in there!

Here is a brief history of La Muerta, both in pictures and narrative, including slight recipe changes over the years. I’m honored that this beer has become appreciated by so many, but also that Dia de La Muerta has become (in my completely biased opinion) one of the best regular beer events in the state of Texas. All of you, and the epic bottle share you have developed over the years, are responsible for this. The laws here in Texas are a little quirky  so we can’t really have things like Dark Lord Day, but I think Dia de La Muerta is the closest thing we have because of all you guys and gals who wake up early, drive across the state, and come hang out on the patio at 8am waiting to buy some bottles. 2013 Update: This statement is no long really true given the recent changes in beer laws, but the point remains the same. You guys have helped make our bottle releases awesome and until someone tells me otherwise I think Dia de La Muerta is the closest thing to Dark Lord Day in the state. A tip of the hat to my friends at Jester King, who are definitely keeping me on my toes with the great job they are doing. They are forcing (in a good way) me to continually try to up our game. Y’all are awesome! 2014 Update: Another tip of the hat to my friends at Jester King, who in my opinion have taken the bottle release/bottle share to the next level with their innovative beers and beautiful location in the Texas hill country. While I have a huge sense of pride for being one of the first to conduct these events in Texas, I have even more pride in our state’s beer culture for continually executing and supporting these kinds of events. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, Texas is a legit beer state!

La Muerta I. 10.2% ABV 50 IBU, 5.9 barrels produced. Brewed January 2, 2009, released on draft January 26, 2009. Approximately 100 bottles released on February 14, 2009. Most bottles had black wax. Bottles sold out in approximately 6 days. Original recipe was 11.4% rauch malt in grain bill.

Unused label concept for La Muerta, produced by The Mad House.


Unused label art concept for La Muerta, produced by The Mad House


Hand bottling first batch of La Muerta, circa Feb 2009

Wax dipping the first bottles of La Muerta, circa Feb 2009

La Muerta II. 11.2% ABV 50 IBU, 6.3 barrels produced. Brewed October 1, 2009. Released on draft November 1, 2009. Bottles released November 7, 2009. Some bottles black wax, some bottles gold wax. Approximately 250 bottles sold. Bottles sold out approximately 10pm on November 7. Recipe still unchanged from original.

La Muerta moves to its eventual normal release date of November 1 for draft, first Saturday of November for bottles (what we now call Dia de La Muerta).

Promotional photo for La Muerta

Bourbon Barrel La Muerta. La Muerta II aged in a Four Roses distillery barrel. Released on Draft January 6, 2010. Bottles release February 13, 2010. Red wax. 95 bottles sold, initial limit was 1/customer, “coupon” emailed out via newsletter on January 1, 2010. Sold out within 4 hours.

This was a very successful release that provided a very delicious beer, for some people. Some other people ended up with a sour, infected imperial stout that I personally despised. This constituted the end of bourbon barrel projects (with the exception of occasional 5 gallon bourbon barrels we get for draft only releases). After this, all barrel aging was done for our Wild Ale program. 2014 Update: Now that we’ve moved into our new S Presa brewery, there is a lot of whispers in the rafters about a bourbon barrel program returning. I can neither confirm or deny said rumors.

Terribly Photoshopped “coupon” emailed out. Required to get a bottle.

Bourbon Barrel La Muerta labels. Definitely the best part of this infected sour mess of a beer.

La Muerta III. 10.3% ABV 55 IBU, 10.0 barrels produced. Brewed September 30 and October 1, 2010. Released November 1, 2010 on draft, bottles November 6, 2010. Red wax. Approximately 450 bottles produced. Sold out in approximately 2 hours. Slight bump in the rauch malt to 12%, increase in IBUs to 55.

We significantly upped the production, “double-batching” La Muerta.

Dia de La Muerta 2010 t-shirts.

La Muerta IV. 9.3% ABV 50 IBU, 11.9 barrels produced. Brewed October 5 & 6, 2011. Release November 1, 2011 on draft, bottles November 5. Gold wax White wax [Edited on 10/31/2012]. Approximately 800 bottles produced. Sold out in approximately 1.5 hours. Recipe increases rauch mault to 18%, IBUs back down to 50.

Labels switch from vinyl “logo only” to wrap-around pressure sensitive labels with brew info (and Government Warning).

Promotional photo for La Muerta

La Muerta V. 9.1% ABV 50 IBU, 18.5 barrels produced. Brewed October 3 and 4, 2012. Draft release November 1, 2012. Bottles release November 3, 2012. No wax. 1,476 bottles sold. 1,074 bottles sold on Dia de La Muerta. Final bottle sold out on December 6. 2012 recipe 11.8% rauch malt and 7% oak smoked wheat malt.

Our first ever “triple batch” in order to try to keep up with demand. Also the first time La Muerta was not be bottled by hand and instead on our bottling line acquired at the end of 2011.

Labeling La Muerta V.

La Muerta VI. 9.2% ABV 50 IBU, 20.2 BBL produced. Brewed October 3 & 4, 2013. Draft release: November 1, 2013. Bottle release: November 2, 2013. Blue wax. 1,600 bottles available for sale. 2013 Recipe modifications: 12% rauch malt, 7% oak smoke wheat malt (so, a very minor increase in rauch versus 2012). Sold out our Anniversary Weekend (thanksgiving weekend)


Labeling La Muerta VI

La Muerta VII. 8.9% ABV 55 IBU, 33.4 BBL produced. Brewed October 2 & 3, 2014. Draft & Bottle release: November 1, 2014. Blueish/Gray/Metallic wax. 1,200 bottles available for sale at brewpub on 11/1/2014, 100 more cases hitting distribution on 11/4/2014. 50 cases for S Presa Tasting room when it opens on 11/7/2014. 2014 Recipe modifications: IBUs back up to 55. New label art for 2014. In all likelihood, we will do new label art every year going forward.

La Muerta VII (2014)

Where to get it (so far)

Hey everyone, we’ve been getting hammered with calls, emails, tweets, FB messages, Pony Express Messengers, mimes, and ravens asking WHERE DO I GET YOUR BEER?!?

First off, THANK YOU for your early embrace of us. Taking this step from brewpub to distributing brewery wasn’t a small one, and definitely made us a bit nervous. To see everyone sending us pics and asking where they can get our beer is a huge relief and we are so grateful for your willingness to take us in to be part of your beer-life. We couldn’t do any of this without all your support!

Second, I do want to mention that we are only in the San Antonio market for now. Eventually we hope to get to other parts of the state (or even the country) but for right now we are entirely focused on serving our hometown of San Antonio.

So without further ado, here is all the places that had received deliveries of Freetail beer as of yesterday. A lot more deliveries are going out today and next week, so if you don’t see your favorite place on the list, they may still be getting their delivery in. Cheers! [Note: sorry for the weird formatting, I'll try to work on that]


FLYING SAUCER, THE                      11255 HUEBNER RD

WORLD OF BEER               22810 HWY 281 N. STE G1



LONDON SUB & PUB                      8425 BANDERA RD

1919                       1420 S ALAMO STE 001



STELLA                                  1414 S ALAMO SUITE 101

B & D ICE HOUSE              1004 S ALAMO


HILL COUNTRY BEV. INC.               314-18 E HOUSTON


FISH CITY GRILL                 18130 US 281 N.

THE ESQUIRE TAVERN                    155    E COMMERCE STREET


CLAUDE HOPPERS           19178 BLANCO RD STE. 205

MICHELINO’S                     521    RIVERWALK

THE COVE                           606    W CYPRESS

THE SANDBAR                   200    E GRAYSON #114

SERNA’S BACKYARD                        12023 POTRANCO ROAD

LEFTY’S DRAFT HOUSE                    15179 JUDSON ROAD ST. 101

LA BARRACA PAELLA BAR             1420 S ALAMO ST. STE. 101

BIG HOPS GASTROPUB                  22250 BULVERDE RD ST 106

HABANERO GRILL #3                      12234 NACOGDOCHES STE A

MIX, THE                              2423 N ST MARY’S

WURZBACH ICE HOUSE                 10141 WURZBACH RD

502                         502    EMBASSY OAKS #138





BITTER END                         903    E BITTERS #313

JOEY’S                                   2417 N. SAINT MARYS ST

JOE BLUE’S                          1420 S. ALAMO STREET


E.R. BAR & GRILL              8647 WURZBACH ROAD BLD. N

GS1221                                 1221 BROADWAY SUITE 116

TBA                        2801 N SAINT MARYS STREET


SPEC’S WINES & SPIR #100           5219 DEZAVALA ROAD #100



H.E.B. #41/#85                  10718 POTRANCO RD.

H.E.B. #31/102                   8503 NW MILITARY



H.E.B. #39/463                   1150 FM 1604 W NORTH SUIT

SPEC’S WINES & SPIR #113           11751 BANDERA ROAD


H.E.B. #15/555                   910    KITTY HAWK

H.E.B. #45/108                   20935 HWY 281 NORTH

SPEC’S LIQUOR #69        14623 IH 35

H.E.B. #21/444                   3323 SE MILITARY DR

H.E.B. #32/623                   9238 W LOOP 1604 NORTH

H.E.B. #20/398                   2929 THOUSAND OAKS

H.E.B. #23/618                   5910 BABCOCK RD

H.E.B. #411 PLEASANTON             219    W OAKLAWN ROAD

H.E.B. #33/230                   14087 O’CONNOR

H.E.B. #46/658                   23635 WILDERNESS OAK

H.E.B. #35/164                   15000 SAN PEDRO

WHOLE FOOD MKT # 10075         255    E BASSE RD STE 130

PIG LIQUORS                     712    S SAINT MARYS ST

H.E.B. 19/294                      6580 FM RD 78


BLUESHARKPC.COM                       1638 LOOP 410 NE STE 102

H.E.B. #30/262                    5601 BANDERA ROAD

H.E.B. #566 LEON SPRINGS          24165 IH 10 WEST SUITE300

H.E.B. #37/235                   9255 FM 471 WEST

H.E.B. #17/395                   12777 IH-10 WEST

H.E.B. #34/384                   6030 MONTGOMERY

S. PRESA FOOD MART                    1110 S PRESA

ALAMO DRUGS                 209    ALAMO PLAZA

MOLINAS                            700    N ALAMO STREET

OLD TYMER                        28295 IH 10 WEST


H.E.B. #44 /568                  12018 PERRIN BEITEL

LASSES FOOD MART                       2703 LASSES

H.E.B. #01/372                   1955 NACOGDOCHES

AMIGOS FUEL CENTER                   9977 IH 35 NORTH



ALAMO CITY LIQOUR                      2943 THOUSAND OAKS

WB LIQUORS & WINE                     3910 MCCULLOUGH STE 102-1

ALAMO FOOD MART                      1900 N ST. MARY’S ST

D. TREN INC.                      2707 NE LOOP 410

M N EXPRESS #1               2734 ROOSEVELT

HONDO SHELL                   1201 19TH STREET

OLMOS MART                   4302 MCCULLOUGH AVE

QUICK STUFF                     8558 HUEBNER RD #101

KWIK PANTRY #5107                       1116 HWY 90 WEST

BIG’S 103                             1000 COUNTRY LANE

NEW QUICK MART                          4058 NACO PERRIN

SHOP-N-SAVE                   1540 PLEASANTON

E Z BUY                                 13550 O’ CONNOR ROAD STE1




PLEASANTON STOP                          1901 PLEASANTON ROAD

Thanks again for your support, and we will periodically update this list here!