Shane Bordeau and Jim Sampson were happy enough at their high-tech gigs—toiling away by day, then throwing back Mexican beers by night when they wanted to chill. But then, flying in the face of this dismal economy, the company they worked for was purchased by a mammoth entity. Enter the freedom to dream a big dream buoyed by the dough to pursue it. At the time of the buyout, Bordeau and Sampson had already been experimenting for years with home brewing. Now, their imaginations revved—what if they opened a microbrewery focused on a variation of the style of beer they preferred? Why not throw their sombreros into the growing ring of Austin area small-operation beer crafters?
By February, you’ll be able to taste the reality of the dream as Twisted X Brewing Company officially launches the world’s first Tex-Mex brewery. Required by TABC to either sell their brew in multiple retail outlets or out of a self-owned establishment, the partners opted for the former and set up shop in a small warehouse in Cedar Park.
“We first came up with the idea to open a Mexican brewpub,” explains Bordeau. “But you can either have a brewpub or be a manufacturer. If you have a brewpub, you can’t sell your beer retail, only in your own pub. Going through and learning regulatory components—it’s a lot harder than people think.”
While they wait for the official green light from regulators, they’ve been courting local-friendly retailers, honing recipes and producing an übergroovy campaign featuring clever titles—Twisted X Premium Tex Mex Lager, Cerveza de los Muertos and Fuego (a jalapeño-infused pilsner)—and cool tattoo-inspired artwork by local artist Joshua Rowan.
When possible, they buy corn from Richardson Farms—corn being the ingredient that differentiates Mexican-style beer from other types. They also offer farmers their post-processing grains, which can be fed to livestock. Bordeau and Sampson have been bonding with, and learning from, established Austin and Hill Country microbrewers, as well.
“Brewers in Texas are a tight-knit group,” says Bordeau. “In IT [information technology], it’s cutthroat. In brewing, other brewers bring you in, sit you down and help you succeed. We met with Brad [Farbstein], the owner of Real Ale in Blanco, and his brewmaster. They showed us around, tasted our beer and helped us make changes.” Brian Peters at Uncle Billy’s lent an assist, too.
While many home brewers and microbrewers prefer IPAs (India Pale Ales), dark lagers and stouts, Twisted X’s beers head the opposite direction.
“We wanted to create a beer not focused on traditional craft,” says Bordeau, and notes his products are focused more on the “everyday beer drinkers.” And while these beers do contain a corn component, their corn content is less than that found in imports from south of the border.
Now that they’re on the cusp of releasing their offspring into the world, or at least into the Austin area, the Twisted X Brewery founders are already scheming seasonal offerings. These, too, will feature local flavors and ingredients. “Some of the other ideas we have are for a mole style, which will be a really dark chocolate stout, and a seasonal prickly pear.
“Brewing, to me, is just like cooking,” continues Bordeau. “There are so many little variables that you can play with to change flavors in a subtle way. And how about combining the two? I like to use Fuego, our jalapeño-infused pilsner, to boil brats before throwing them on the grill!”