When David Wilson, John Wamer and Randy Williams served in the same Marine Corps unit during the Iraq War, they knew they wanted to do something very different once their time in the military was up.
It’s taken a decade for the three friends to get their business up and running, but it has finally, thankfully happened: Ruggedman Brewing, in the New Braunfels-San Marcos corridor, is celebrating its grand opening this weekend.
Those long days and nights fighting a war overseas have become a piece of the identity of Ruggedman in the same way they have for each of the men, now all in their mid-thirties. Each of the beers — which include a variety of blonde ales and some Belgian-style brews — are named after tools or parts of a machine, such as the Big Rig Blonde and the Blowtorch Black IPA.
“We thought there had to be a better way to make a living,” Wilson said. “We were all interested in brewing beer and thought that might be what we’d pursue when we got out.”
None of them were able to immediately open a brewery, however. After serving two eight-month tours in Iraq together, the Marine veterans parted ways, “doing our own thing for a couple of years until we could pay for the brewery,” Wilson said. Being able to open the business without any outside investment or help was important to them.
Once the homebrewers decided they were financially ready for Ruggedman in 2014, it took a year-and-a-half to secure a space — but finding it somewhere in Central Texas, where all three of the brewery co-founders now live, was a no-brainer for them.
“We thought that because Texas is a growing market, versus San Diego or the Pacific Northwest, it would be a great market for our beer,” Wilson said, noting that he has set up roots in Canyon Lake, while Wamer, the head brewer, is in Kyle and Williams lives in Lockhart.
They have named the brewery after a slang term that nods to the way Marines might look and feel in the field after a hard month’s work — rugged. Because the co-founders want to welcome everyone to Ruggedman, they have rejiggered the word to refer to “all working men and women in all jobs,” Wilson said. “Because you can be an accountant and still be rugged after a long day in the office.”
Ruggedman Brewing’s beers also don’t refer to tools used exclusively in the Marine Corps, although the Machine Gun Stout, Wilson said, is a tribute to the role that he and Wamer held as machine gunners.
“When your head brewer is a former Marine Corps Infantry Machine Gunner, a beer this big and powerful was bound to happen,” according to a description of the dry, roasted dark beer on the Ruggedman website.
Here are some of the other beers to expect this weekend during the three-day grand opening festivities.
- The Gold Pan Blonde: The American blonde ale is one of the mainstay styles that will constantly be on tap at the brewery in between New Braunfels and San Marcos. It’s got “a smooth lager-like finish,” according to the website.
- Anchor Line Amber: More malty than hoppy without being sweet, this darker-than-typical amber ale is one of the Belgian-style beers that Ruggedman has chosen to focus on.
- Blowtorch Black IPA: It looks like a stout but tastes like the pine and citrus flavors of a classic IPA — the best of both worlds. “Ample amounts” of Simcoe and Chinook hops dominate, but there are also complex roasted notes from the Carafa malts.
- Bee Hive Blonde: For this one, Ruggedman started with a base beer similar to the Gold Pan but then added unpasteurized Texas honey after the initial fermentation to give it a floral and fruity aroma. The brewery also makes a Belgian-style blonde called Big Rig.
Ruggedman Brewing makes these and other sudsy offerings on a 7-barrel brewhouse and a half-barrel pilot system. The pilot system is especially helpful as Wamer, Wilson and Williams figure out which beers will appeal to their customers the most and also allows them to experiment with styles from beyond Belgium and America — English, German and Mexican-style beers are also interesting to them.
“We want to be very diverse with our beers,” Wilson said.
Because of Ruggedman’s brewpub license, visitors can take growlers to go from the tasting room — as well as newly launched cans. For now, these are only available from the brewery, but once they are more officially designed, the cans will be distributed around town.
During tasting room hours, the Mi Ranchito food truck will serve up Tex-Mex barbecue.
The grand opening party will run from 2 p.m. Friday through 6 p.m. Sunday this weekend and will include the four mainstay brews (the American and Belgian-style blondes, the amber and the stout) and 10 small-batch offerings. Regular taproom hours are 2 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 12 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 12 to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Ruggedman Brewing is located at 7600 S. Old Bastrop Hwy., in the New Braunfels area. For more information, visit drinkthedamnbeer.com.