HOUSTON – Houston’s burgeoning craft beer scene will grow once more when Local Group Brewing opens its doors at 1504 Chapman Street—in Hardy Yards at Houston’s Near Northside—in late 2019. Founded by Houston transplants Todd Donewar, Michael Steeves and James “Huggy Bear” Wolfe, the team behind the 7,500+ square foot brewpub with a view of downtown Houston will focus on its taproom operation, featuring 20+ taps, eight of which will be connected directly to ten-barrel serving tanks for optimal beer freshness. Alongside the taproom, a chef-driven kitchen will pulse out diverse bites made with thoughtfully-sourced ingredients.
“Our goal is to focus on the whole experience within our building, and that includes the beer we brew in small batches, high-quality food, amenities for kids and pets and a relaxing, casual atmosphere that spreads across a patio with killer views and an air-conditioned taproom,” said co-founder Michael Steeves. He added: “Myself and fellow co-founders Todd and Huggy Bear plan to be in the taproom as regular fixtures, interacting with guests one on one and providing personalized service—that direct contact is something we really value.”
The Team and Their Partnership
After working together in Houston in the energy industry for over five years, finding a common interest in opening a brewery and completing a homebrewing stint together, New Orleans-born Todd Donewar and Canadian Michael Steeves set out to make their brewery dream a reality. In searching for a head brewer for Local Group Brewing, the pair found a great partner in Huggy Bear, who shared their vision for an approachable, community-focused brewpub.
One additional team-member will round out the leadership team: an executive chef, which Local Group is in the process of hiring. With a fully-equipped, on-site kitchen, as much importance will be placed on the culinary operations as the brewing.
Local Group Brewing Brews
As head brewer, Huggy Bear will bring to life the team’s idea of great quality beer that pushes creative bounds. To date, Local Group has produced over 80 test batches of beer, which are shared with friends and family over weekly happy hours. The test batches allow the team to develop and perfect recipes, and then work towards production consistency, all while receiving valuable feedback.
Simultaneously, Local Group Brewing has already begun collaborating with existing brewpubs such as Holler Brewing Co., with whom they brewed Hydrus, a New Zealand Pale Ale and Great Heights Brewing Company, with whom they’ve just created a Pale Ale. Local Group plans to continue exercising creativity with fellow members of the tight-knit beer community, releasing more collaboration brews in the months to come.
When it comes time to open, the brewpub will work up to using the equipment in its 2,700 square foot brewhouse and cellar areas—a two vessel direct fire brewhouse with hot and cold liquor tanks, four fermenters, eight ten-barrel serving tanks—to produce to their full capacity, 20+ taps, eight of which will serve beer directly from the tanks and the rest on kegs.
“We will make beer that we believe in, and that people truly wish to drink,” said Huggy Bear. “We’re keeping a pulse on what brews people are interested in in Houston and beyond to nail down our opening beer line-up. Ultimately, we want to push the envelope with our creations, while letting feedback from our community drive our production,” he adds.
Long-Term Investment in the Neighborhood
In a true testament to their long-term investment in the neighborhood, Local Group Brewing purchased the building it will call home.
“Near Northside is part of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s ‘Complete Communities’ action plan, an initiative for more equitable neighborhoods across the city brought to life through task forces that help increase economic strength, improve infrastructure and beautify communities, among other elements. It is one of many examples of hundreds of thousands of dollars being allocated to lifting the area up, and we are incredibly excited to go into the neighborhood at this time, and hopefully add value for current and future residents and visitors,” said co-founder Todd Donewar.
The brewpub has enlisted several local firms, including Method Architecture, a firm which has designed many other brewpubs in Houston, and GSD Construction, a general contractor, to gut the building, install windows, add garage-style doors and create an expansive patio to the 1948 building that originally housed Acme Pattern Works.
Field of Study Design will craft the look and feel of the interior space, slated to feature the brand’s bold black and yellow colors in an environment that’s stylized and industrial all at once, with custom-made white oak and steel furniture from FMW | fablab.
Behind The Name
Steeves and Donewar are fans of all things space, and they landed on the name of the brewpub after “reflecting on everything that craft beer is all about – supporting local businesses, having fun and building community,” said Steeves. “We will focus on brewing beer for what is a small area in the grand scheme of the universe, and we will do that by supporting local at every opportunity we have. At the same time, the brewpub, our city, state, country, earth, the solar system, the milky way and so on, are all a part of the Local Group of galaxies, and there’s an interesting dichotomy there with investing locally while being situated in this massive universe,” he explained.
About The Team
Todd Donewar, co-founder: Craft beer enthusiast Todd Donewar, a New Orleans native, is so adamant about supporting small businesses that he only buys independently brewed beers. During his time at University of Houston studying energy-focused Finance and Accounting, he dove deep into the world of beer, exploring brews from near and far, realizing how passionate he is about the industry.
Michael Steeves, co-founder: In his early years, Canadian Michael Steeves worked driving semi-trucks to help fuel his education in finance and business, travel and beer exploration. His finance career and desire to see the world has taken him to 29 countries. He honed his professional skills in Calgary, London, and various cities in China before calling Houston home in 2013. Michael continues exploring and learning; recently earning the Level 3 Award in Wines from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. No matter the city or country, Michael enjoys socializing with friends at local brewpubs.
James “Huggy Bear” Wolfe, co-founder and head brewer: The opportunity to work with NASA is what first brought Huggy Bear to Houston, but it’s the burgeoning beer scene and collaborative spirit that caused him to make Houston his home. After a decade in the aerospace industry, Huggy Bear found his creativity and passion in craft beer. Starting at No Label Brewing Company, where he quickly became head brewer, and continuing to Southern Star Brewing, he has earned a reputation for creating finely crafted and highly drinkable beers.