Hops Matters



The Taproom

“It was so different the last time I was here.”

I often joke that Hops & Grain outgrew its original taproom the day it opened. Upon my first visit it was so packed that my friend Tiernan and I had to drink in the building’s main hallway. I will never forget that day. We each had one pour of every beer available. We got a little toasty and decided to walk the 1.2 miles down the road to Sputnik and have a greasy burger and fries. I mention that because much has changed since then. For one, the taproom is in a completely different location and is much bigger. Also, Sputnik has since closed for business. Things are always in flux.

“It was so different the last time I was here.”

The current taproom is where I have spent the majority of my time. It too has changed quite a bit over the years. Inside and out. When it first opened, the back parking lot was an unpaved mess of dirt that caused a storm of debris every time a car passed through that would have made Steinbeck proud. The small grassy area just in front of the door contained a handful of red picnic tables, some of which still sit there to this day. When you walked in the door you were greeted by a ridiculously placed chest high wall that would need to be circumnavigated just to get to the bar. Depending on who was working you were likely to be greeted by some high decibel blasting Hall & Oats or Andrew W.K.. It was illegal for us to sell you beer at the time, so you were given a lengthy spiel on how you would need to purchase a souvenir glass in order for us to give you four “free samples.” There were no glass washers then, so in between beers you might catch a glimpse of your bartender using some of the beer you just ordered to rinse out your glass. If you planned on staying for awhile, there were board games to keep you occupied and a couple of igloo coolers that dispensed filtered water.

“It was so different the last time I was here.”

The parking lot is paved now. That only took 5 years. The amount of picnic tables has increased. The wall was removed and the music now comes from a legally licensed streaming music service for businesses. We obtained a conditional use permit from the city that enables us to sell beer by the glass — just like a real bar! That too took 5 years. Two glass washers were installed. The board games remain, but the coolers were replaced by a really cool water tap that not only looks great but dispenses filtered water that doesn’t require a mid shift refill from 100 yards away on the opposite side of the building.

“It was so different the last time I was here.”

We have expanded our hours to 7 days a week and are open from 10 AM to 10 PM. We built a coffee program where we can make you a single cup three different ways and all the forms of espresso you can handle. Italian sodas are popular with the kids and we move up to four cases a week of that magical elixir of life known as Topo Chico. In the wintertime we offer Momma Galligan’s Minnesota cocoa.

“It was so different the last time I was here.”

The staff has changed too. For instance, I now work here. My title has even changed once. Although, in my heart, I still just consider myself to be “Chief Enthusiast.” The other people working here now are some of the finest I have ever come across. You might know them: The musical boy genius in three different bands, one of the funniest guys doing standup and improv in the entire city, the girl with the green thumb who made this place beautiful inside and out, and the lady who can choke you unconscious if you say something uncouth. They are what really makes this place special, not to mention the fact that we happen to pour what is, in my opinion, some of the finest beer ever crafted by humanity.

Things change here because we are never satisfied. The Taproom is an idea — an idea that eventually we will have created the perfect experience for our customers, even if perfection is unattainable. So if you find yourself reading this and you have never been to our taproom, I urge you to come by for a visit. We may have done some polishing, but we are still as rough around the edges as we have always been. How else do you explain my continued employment? If you have already been here and it’s been any longer than a week, I urge you to return. Either way, I’m sure it will be different since the last time that you were here.

Luke Vicic I Taproom
May 2017

Photo Credit: Tyler Malone, The Second Shooter ATX, 2015