If you’re a beer nerd like me, hearing that a brewery is hosting a small event to tap three new brews, plus release a special bottle edition, will immediately build a thirst in your throat. Turns out, the easiest way to quench that thirst is to join the “family reunion” at Family Business Beer Company.
On April 22nd, Family Business Beer Company shuttered their doors to the public early in order to host their yearly party. Affectionately called the “family reunion,” this year it was a private event – open only to lifetime members and their plus-ones. (Membership is currently sold out but you can learn about it here.) The reunion was promoted as including the tapping of several new beers, delicious local BBQ, live music, and an appearance by co-owner Jensen Ackles.
As I mentioned in "Supernatural Podcast Sheds Light on the SPNFamily", I’m originally from the central Texas region. Specifically, I was born and raised in Dripping Springs, Texas, the town that now hosts the Family Business Beer Company. I remember driving down Hamilton Pool Road long before the brewery was built, headed to swim in the Pedernales River or to try to catch catfish at the eponymous Hamilton Pool. So while I now reside in Chicago, when I heard about this event I knew I’d be making the trek.
Conveniently, my little brother still lives in Austin (40 minutes from Dripping Springs) and we’ve made a habit of planning what we call “super-secret-sibling-weekends.” Without telling my parents that I’ll be in town, I fly into Austin and the two of us go adventuring for a weekend, only to tell Mom and Dad about it after the fact. So, I rang up Douglas and we got his ticket as my plus one for the brewery event.
On reunion day, we arrived punctually at 5pm, yet the space was already filling up. Cloudy skies and the chance of rain meant most folks were camped out indoors rather than enjoying the oak grove on the brewery's grounds. Douglas and I settled on some bar stools on the patio with our drinks, and immediately started to chat up fellow attendees.
All told, between 300 to 400 members and plus-ones attended the event. It was crowded, but not uncomfortably so, which led to MANY interesting conversations between attendees. I met folks who drove from as close as North Austin as well as those who flew in from New Jersey and Kentucky and even from outside the country! I was particularly excited to see and catch up a bit with a few friend I made at the 2022 Nashville Supernatural Convention.
As I was fixing to join the queue for BBQ, I heard a murmur from inside the brewery. I stepped inside to see Jensen addressing the crowd, thanking everyone for supporting the brewery, thanking Samantha Lee and the Family Tree for the live music, and announcing the three new brews officially on draft. As he stepped down from the stage, brewery staff announced that Jensen would be back in the production space. Groups would be called based on membership number, to come back to meet him and snap a picture.
I knew my membership number was high enough that I had time for BBQ and another beer. When I rejoined my brother with our pile of food, he asked me who the guy was up on the stage earlier. I couldn’t help but laugh. Douglas may have watched all of The Boys and know who Jensen Ackles is, but clearly his celebrity recognition skills need some work.
Regardless, we enjoyed our food from Crimson Creek BBQ and waited for our turn back in the production space. When our group was called, I made sure my recorder was running. Douglas and I chatted in line as we waited for our turn, and I pretended that I definitely hadn’t drunk my 7.2% Victorious Egret beer too quickly from nerves.
Not that I needed to worry. Jensen is just as nice in person as he seems from any interview you’ve seen. That didn't stop my brain from blanking on my carefully crafted plan to ask him for an interview for my podcast, though. Instead, I ended up telling him how my brother and I were true Dripping Springs locals and loved the brewery. I might have also thrown in how we share initials with the Winchester brothers (DW for Douglas and SW for me).
So rather than asking for the interview I actually need for my podcast, In Defense of Fandom, I ranted about being a local Supernatural fan. Whoops….
At least I regained my wits afterwards, and asked the bar staff if I could speak to Gino Graul (owner, general manager, and Danneel’s brother) about the brewery and how fandom has (or hasn’t) supported it. Gino was busy, but I was able to interview Gino’s mom Debbie.
Seated away from the crowds on a picnic bench under the oak trees, Debbie told me about how they first bought the property for the brewery. Apparently, the previous owners had housed horses on the land. This would have been less of an issue if they had taken the animals with them when they moved. Instead, the Ackles & Grauls showed up to find four horses grazing in the fields, with one of them obviously pregnant!
That was just the first challenge they faced when getting Family Business Beer Company up and running. Turns out, the name isn’t just a reference to the popular Supernatural phrase. It really was a family affair to turn the ranchland into a functioning brewery. According to Debbie, Gino spent hours with a chainsaw, cutting back the foliage, as Danneel planned out the landscaping. Debbie was particularly entertained with how adamant Jensen was with stringing up warm patio lights, doing the work himself to light the oak grove into a charming outdoor seating space.
I would tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil all my secrets. I’m currently working on a podcast episode all about the brewery for In Defense of Fandom, so come back here for a link to more details when it's released!
When my brother and I finally left the brewery that night, bourbon-barrel aged Grackle beer in tow, we reflected on how we seem to always end up at FBBC on our sibling weekends. First, for their crawfish boil, then last summer to see Steve Carlson play a show, and now for a “family reunion.” I love that it’s served as a family reunion space for the two of us as well.
Here’s to the next event and my next flight back to Texas!