City Councilman Kevin Roden joked after he fumbled the words of a proclamation that earned uncharacteristic enthusiasm.
“Sorry,” he called to the crowd. He lifted a pint glass ringed with traces of foam and tipped it from side to side.
“I’m empty,” he said, before finishing the proclamation that celebrated Armadillo Ale Works’ first commercial batch of beer. The crowd whooped, hollered and hoisted pints — making a cyclist coasting down Oakland Street to crank his neck and brake.
The patio of Oak Street Drafthouse and Cocktail Parlor was packed Friday night. Inside, patrons stood elbow to gut at the bar, and people edged through the parlor sideways to get to the big back patio. Locals wore heavy jackets and winter hats to the event. The chill overwhelmed the propane heating towers, but no one complained. Most tasted the first draught of Quakertown Stout, the very first taste of the homegrown craft beer.
Susan Mullins, the mom of Armadillo Ale Works co-founder and chief brewing officer Bobby Mullins, wore a big grin at the event. She said she and husband Robert were proud of their son and his best friend and Armadillo Ale Works CEO, Yanni Arentis. Both fielded jokes about their son growing up to make beer with good humor.
“And I’m a youth minister,” Susan Mullins said. “So you kind of have to separate your work life and your personal life. But at least I’m not a Baptist youth minister.”
Mullins coordinates the spiritual and social formation of middle schoolers and teens at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Andry Becker, Arestis’ mother, said she and her husband, John, were proud to see their son make a dream come true.
“Starting a business together would be a test of any friendship, I’d think,” John Becker said. “But not only did they start a business, they stayed friends.”
John Becker said he liked the Quakertown Stout.
“I like a strong-tasting beer. Because I like to taste my beer,” he said. “I’m a Guinness drinker, and I don’t like the light beers all that much. Yeah, I’d take another of these.”
About an hour after the event began, a steady line out of the bar’s door reached Oak Street. Mullins and Arestis were mobbed by friends and well wishers who insisted the pair take a photo with them.
“It honestly hasn’t set in yet,” Bobby Mullins said, taking in the crowd. A moment later, someone would tap Mullins on the arm to tell him the news: three of the five kegs were tapped.
“It’s really been awesome, actually, to have all of these people out here this early. We’ve worked really hard for the last two years to make this happen,” Mullins said.
What started as a hobby, crafting beer in the Mullins’ garage grew into a business plan. The pair received a $10,000 award from the University of North Texas, and then watched as their crowd-sourcing campaign on Kickstarter.com brought in $34,002 in contributions from 371 backers, some of whom had never tasted the craft beers the company had concocted and offered at tastings.
“We worked really hard to get our brand out there,” said Arestis, who shook hands and answered pleas for photos for hours. “I’ve been working for somebody else since I was 14. Now, this is it. This is all I’m doing. I’ve always wanted to have my own business.
Arestis and Mullins had originally dreamed of opening a brewery in Denton. Eventually, they agreed to license their beers to Deep Ellum Brewing Co. They still operated as Armadillo Ale Works, and their beer will bear the brand on draft taps at Dan’s Silverleaf, the Mellow Mushroom and Lucky Lou’s on Fry Street. And once Deep Ellum Brewing Co. and Armadillo are ready to distribute canned beers, the Ale Works’ label will be in the cans. For the first commercial batch, patrons got a souvenir pint glass bearing the Armadillo Ale Works brand.
The stout earned thumbs up in the crowd.
“I’m really into home brewing and local beer,” said Brandi Lackey, who sent a Facebook invitation for the celebration to her friends. “I think it’s really good, actually. After you sip, you kind of taste it a few seconds later. It’s smooth. I think it’s a nice syrupy flavor. I think I taste syrup?”
Mullins confirmed her guess. The stout includes roasted barley, oats, wheat “and lots of maple syrup.”
Matt and Katie Beth Miller attended with their pet pug, Huckleberry. They said the beer tasted good. If they were to have it with a meal, they said they’d take the stout for an all-American spin.
“I would say a burger,” Katie Beth Miller said. “I think it’d taste good with a nice burger.”
Ray McGrath and Jason Daugherty stopped in at the drafthouse to get the weekend started. They didn’t know about the stout unveiling, but bought a pint because it was on special, Daughtery said.
“I like it,” McGrath said. “I like stouts, like Guinness. I think this beer has a nice hoppy there at the end. It’s kinda nice.”
Daughtery said he normally drinks a light beer but could easily drink Quakertown Stout with buffalo wings with blue cheese.
Arestis and Mullins said they’re excited to dive back into work. What’s up next for the local craft beer company?
“We’re working on our Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale,” Arestis said. “It’s a nice sessionable beer for the spring. It’s a lighter beer.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .