A 50 minute drive north of Austin on Interstate 35, Salado is a small town full of artists and other creative souls that, until recently, didn’t have a brewery of its own — and didn’t have the laws to make one possible. But Barrow Brewing founders Graydon and KD Hill worked to change that and are ready to celebrate the grand opening of their brewery next month.
Already, the couple is seeing how much their beers are in high demand, the gratifying result of a lot of sweat and tears and support from their close-knit community.
The Hills’ battle to open Barrow Brewing, named after Graydon’s long Texas lineage, has been harder than most.
They didn’t just have to deal with the usual permitting and renovating of a space that many brewery founders have to handle on the road to opening. They also had to petition Salado — a village of some 2,000 residents — to change an existing law that permitted the sale of alcohol only in places making at least 50 percent of their profits from food.
“We petitioned and got on the ballot,” KD Hill said. “And 784 people voted yes. That was a huge moment. We actually named one of our beers after that, the 784 Belgian Wit. We knew when the election passed that people were going to support the brewery; we weren’t completely out of our minds for working that hard to make it happen.”
Her husband, Graydon, had been a commercial airline pilot whose hobby of homebrewing became a passion he couldn’t shake. He and KD had moved to Salado in 2011 and noticed that the town, comprised of potters, glass-blowers and other people following their dreams, lacked a brewery.
“Being in Salado, we felt it was the perfect place for it,” she said.
Once KD was on-board with Graydon’s big career move — which she said was at first “a scary, scary change” — she found that Salado’s creative residents served as motivation for going through with the brewery.
“We found a group of people who we feel are our tribe,” she said. “We’re surrounded by people who are pursuing their dreams, who are just all-out going for it. It’s hard not to want to be a part of that.”
Salado’s artisans have already proven to be helpful collaborators as well. Now that the year of renovating an old granary is over and the brewery has quietly opened for weekend tours and tastings, the Hills are putting the finishing touches on Barrow Brewing: filling it up with German biergarten tables salvaged from nearby Round Top, keeping the long-leaf pine bar where the beer is served cleaned and shiny, and waiting on the special snifter glasses from a neighboring glassworks company. A local potter is also making them growlers.
“You’re getting a full experience when you come here. You’re getting craft handmade glassware with our beer made just yards away,” KD Hill said.
Barrow Brewing’s beers include the Evil Catfish IPA, named after a local legend, and the Ski Boat Blonde, named after the family-heirloom boat that Graydon inherited from his father and proposed to KD on. The blonde ale has been the most popular, KD said, because “we still have a Budweiser crowd around us.”
There’s also the Tipsy Vicar Stout, named after “our local homebrewer Episcopalian priest. He’s been a big supporter, so we were excited to name one after him. He has a good recipe for an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) that we’re talking about scaling up,” she said.
And in June, she and Graydon also hope to release the Ginger Rye, a small-batch offering that will come out just in time for Father’s Day.
Although these beers are only available in the taproom right now, the Hills have a canning line installed and hope to start sending their beers out in cans soon to local bars and stores. But don’t expect Barrow beers in Austin: As Bell County’s only brewery, Barrow is going to have its hands full supplying the big market of Fort Hood.
In the meantime, KD Hill hopes people will drive up to check out the brewery and Salado as a whole.
“We want to make the brewery a community space,” she said. “This is where they can gather, bring their kids, eat from the food truck onsite. Make it a second living room. We feel strongly about the community of Salado; we’ve made true, true friends with people we would never have made friends with in a big city or in another small town because the town of Salado is so, so eclectic. We want people to make friends when they come to the taproom.”
Barrow Brewing’s grand opening party is a good opportunity to visit. It’ll kick off with a ribbon cutting at noon on June 4 and will have food trucks, games, giveaways and a Barrow-branded pint glass for the first 500 customers.
The brewery is located at 108 Royal St. in Salado and opened 4 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 12 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit barrowbrewing.com.