Denton couple bound by a love of small-batch brews and a business plan
Summer Bailey and Derrick Rima plan to include their passion for craft beer in their upcoming wedding ceremony.
That’s how committed the Denton couple is to their brewing.
“The whole wedding theme is pretty much all about summertime beer,” said Bailey, a 24-year-old advertising agent and one half of Ugly Rugger Brewing.
“We’re putting hops on the tables, and we’re brewing all the beer for the reception,” she said.
The couple will lug their homemade “kegerator” to the reception, where a friend will do bartending duty at the taps.
Ugly Rugger Brewing, one of several breweries in the Denton area, has created a menu of beers that are available at free beer tastings and at the couple’s Denton home. (They have a habit of inviting new friends over for beer and a visit, which usually happen with in a few feet of their brewery, tucked into an comfortably air-conditioned garage.)
Though Rima and Bailey insist they’ll never stop experimenting with the flavors, aromas and heft of their recipes for a future downtown Denton brewpub, they have a menu of brew that will probably anchor the row of taps they’ve dreamed up: a hefeweizen, a mellow, bubbly variety of ale; an India pale ale, a light-colored ale brewed using warm fermentation and sporting a bitter tang; a saison, a hazy golden beer with a jot of alcohol; a dunkelweizen, a cloudy gold wheat beer that has a whiff of banana or vanilla to it; and porter, a dark dessert beer full of bakery smells and a bouquet of flavor.
On a lark, Ugly Rugger brewed what owners call “a ridiculously over-the-top West Coast India pale ale,” a variety of beer that is called a “palate wrecker” because its flavors won’t leave your mouth for a while.
If Bailey and Rima’s work goes as planned, they’ll open their brewpub at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014. In the meantime, Rima said they’re completing business proposals, mastering recipes and securing finances.
Ugly Rugger really started with Rima, the love of Bailey’s life — who happens to be a guy who reached drinking age with nary a taste bud for beer.
“Originally, I didn’t even like Budweiser or Coors or those big beers,” said Rima, 29. “I was a liquor drinker, and I liked strong liquors, you know? I had a lot of friends who were hard-core beer fans, and it was like, ‘Every time we get together, you’re going to drink a beer.’ So I did. I never fell in love with it or anything. It’s not like I was going to go out and buy a case. But I learned to tolerate it, I guess you could say.”
Then Rima joined the Army and was stationed in Germany.
“Really, it was Europe and rugby that made me a beer drinker,” Rima said.
While he was serving in Germany, Rima played for a university rugby team — German schools don’t require players to be students.
“That’s when I started drinking good beer, and getting interested in it. That made a big difference,” Rima said.
Rima said he thought about brewing his own beer, but only in passing. He was grilling fajitas at a poolside party when he met Bailey, who’d just turned 21 but had never had a beer. Rima gave Bailey her first beer, a craft brew.
“I tasted it and I was like ‘Oh, this is good,’” Bailey said. “When I took him to a family outing so he could meet my family, I introduced him to my uncle, who’s a home brewer.”
Rima sat and talked with him, and then started doing a lot of research about home brewing, ingredients and the varieties of beers that home brewers can create with time, patience and a surprisingly small amount of equipment. He was attending University of North Texas, where he’s working on a degree in hospitality management, and where he’s also played rugby.
“While I was waiting for the financial aid to come in, I watched every video I could find on the Internet and YouTube,” Rima said. “I’m not a reader by any means. Like, at all. If I can avoid reading, I do. I’ll take video over books any day. But I started reading books about beer cover to cover.”
The couple invested in home brewing equipment and ingredients and got to work. First, they made stouts — dark beers known for being strong and filling.
“I enjoy Guinness, but I can’t drink a pint of it,” Rima said. “We wanted to make something ‘sessionable,’ something you can drink a lot of without it feeling like a whole meal.”
Bailey considers herself a craft brew fan, but considers her fiance the brewer. When they started sharing their beer with friends at parties — getting praise that Rima has a tendency to dismiss as “people just blowing smoke because they’re friends” — taste testers asked what they were calling their recipes, especially their “sessionable” stout.
“In rugby, there’s a saying: ‘Play rugby. Die ugly.’ I don’t know why, but Ugly Rugger just seemed like the right name for it,” Rima said.
It also seemed like the perfect name for a craft brewery he and Bailey imagined.
Eventually, the pair decided to start a business.
Then they went to the Missouri Beer Festival, where they volunteered as beer pourers. As the vendors started packing up, they asked some brewers they met to sample their beer. Rima ran more than a mile to get the brews from his car.
“The police kept saying, ‘It’s time to go. You gotta go,’ and I was so scared we weren’t going to have time for anyone to taste our beer,” Bailey said.
Rima made it back with some beer. They recalled pouring some for a friendly brewer, who praised it. They worked up the nerve to offer some to a brewer they described as “a little grumpy.”
“I said, ‘All right. Tell me the truth. I want you to tell me what’s bad about this beer,’” Rima recalled.
Bailey remembers the answer like it was yesterday.
“He said ‘nothing’ and then didn’t say anything else. We were like, ‘No, really, tell us what you would change about it.’ And he said: ‘Nothing. Don’t change anything about it. Don’t change it.’”
Bailey said she gets “hot in the face” when someone likes an Ugly Rugger recipe. Rima always remains skeptical.
The couple is juggling Ugly Rugger with their wedding and the Denton County Homebrewers Guild, a newly established association for home brewers who want to meet other beer enthusiasts.
Bailey and Rima said the small Denton craft beer scene is friendly and supportive. They know the brewers of Armadillo Ale Works and Independent Ale Works by name and said they want to see both succeed.
“If there was competition in the local brewing community, it would definitely be friendly competition,” Rima said. “Each of us is following our own dream. And if any of those guys needed help, I’d be there in a second.”
Bailey said she sees their future brewpub serving food, some of it cooked with Ugly Rugger beer, and that they hope to have other locally brewed beers on their taps. And she intends for the business to support military veterans — among other community causes.
“We’re so passionate about craft beers, and we love Denton. We want to be good to Denton because Denton’s given so much to us,” Bailey said. “I’d love to see Ugly Rugger be a family business, with our kids working with us. I want for us to leave some kind of legacy.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
WHAT ELSE IS BREWING LOCALLY?
ARMADILLO ALE WORKS
After a successful Kickstarter campaign one year ago — brewers Yianni Arestis and Bobby Mullins raised $34,002 — Armadillo Ale Works got to work opening a brewery to produce four staple beers and any others the brewers care to make. Mullins said the company is in the process of earning its licensing and opening a brewhouse.
“If everything goes as planned,” Mullins said, “we should have our beer for sale by the end of 2012. The state follows its own schedule, and they tell you it can take as long as nine months for them to get their part of it done.”
In the meantime, the brewers are celebrating their “prohibition” by brewing sodas — Bee’s Knees lemonade soda pop and Clawfoot ginger cream ale — and selling them in Denton. Armadillo Ale Works’ sodas are available at a host of local outlets, including Midway Mart, Atomic Candy, Andy’s Bar, the Love Shack and Metzler’s Bar-B-Q.
On the Web: http://armadilloaleworks.com
INDEPENDENT ALE WORKS CO.
David Miller and Stefen Windham’s new nano brewery is located in Denton County, outside of Krum. To learn more, read Sunday’s Business section in the Denton Record-Chronicle.
On the Web: www.facebook.com/IndyAles
ON THE WEB
Denton County Homebrewers Guild: http://dchg.org