Representing East Austin One Beer At a Time
Words by Sommer Brugal Photos by Aaron Rimbey
There’s a story behind every beer at Hops & Grain Brewery. From the name each beer is given to the personality it evokes, every story is different, and each beer is a reflection of the greater east Austin community of which Hops & Grain is proud to be a part. And according to Josh Hare, Hops & Grain founder, the 78702 is no different.
“We started making a Kölsch because our house yeast strain lends itself well to brewing that style of beer,” said Josh Hare. “The Kölsch, and [what is now] the River Beer, were some of our early attempts at creating a house beer.” But when the Kölsch was brought into the taproom for tasting, Hare says the beer took on a personality of its own.
The beer was popular from the start. “It even created this weird following among some of our friends,” Hare said with a smirk. One of those followers was Michael Lambert. Host of the local podcast, The Beerist, Hare says Lambert began a pseudo Twitter campaign using #CanTheKolsch. According to Hare, Lambert would periodically tweet the hashtag at the brewery, and after some time, others followed suit. Hare said that was the first time they considered turning the Kölsch into something more than just the house beer.
Despite the pressures via Twitter, it wasn’t until Hare’s close friend, Jose Velasquez, a multi-generational east Austin resident and known around the community as Mr. 02—his license plate says so—was in the taproom that the beer became what it is today.
“One day, [Velasquez] was drinking the beer in the tasting room, and he said, ‘this is a beer for the 02.’” Hare says from that point on, the name simply stuck. Today, the 78702 name lends itself to two other variants, the 7870Blue and the 7870Melon.
Though Hops & Grain has become a well-known presence in Austin, Hare didn’t get into the beer-making industry because he wanted everyone to know his brand. “To me, it was all about the product and how that product [could] help people connect with their communities and what they’re passionate about.” So when it came time to find a location for his brewery, Hare knew East Austin would be the perfect location to support his vision.
“There was multi-generational families living in the same communities,” remembered Hare, “and [residents] were proud of where they came from.” Hare has been living in east Austin since the mid-2000s and was drawn to its neighborhood-rooted community. He says Hops & Grain strives to recreate that culture with every beer they make.
When Hare set out to make beer, he was simply trying to fill a void in Austin’s beer scene: to create a beer that serviced a fit and active community. His goal was to make a product that was consistent, approachable, and friendly from a branding and storytelling standpoint. He also wanted to create a product where consumers could put their trust.
But, at the end of the day, Hare says the brewery and those who come to the east side have to take responsibility for what they are within the neighborhood. “We have the potential to either massively disrupt the harmony [of this community] or integrate with it and become an awesome component of the neighborhood.” All while manufacturing beer right in the middle.
Did you Know? According to Hare, Hops & Grain never creates a new beer with a name in mind. He says they let customers give feedback, and they listen to what they have to say about it. Once a beer begins to take on certain personality traits, Hare says the team looks to other aspects of their lives that mirror those characteristics. The One They Call Zoe, for example, a pale lager made with dry hops, is named after a dog, the Papillon.
Native Knowledge: Hops and Grain serves excellent coffee! They are open daily from 10am to 10pm, so stop by for a cold brew and stay for a beer.
507 Calles Street #101