When Ben Fullelove opened Petrol Station in Garden Oaks in 2007, it grew to become one of Houston’s favorite beer bars, a place where fanatics convene to expand their palates and down old favorites among the bar’s approximately 30 beers on tap—though it took several years before what was originally opened as a coffee shop became a craft beer mecca. These days, you might say that with Petrol Station, Fullelove has achieved beer-lover nirvana. But there’s one thing he’s wanted since the beginning, something that by law he couldn’t have: for Houstonians to drink his craft beer—beer he’d brewed himself.
Although the UK native has been making his own excellent Brash beer since 2012, it’s not available in Texas. The actual brewing has been contracted out to Mercury Brewing in Massachusetts, which makes his super-hoppy IPAs, like Droogs and The Bollocks, and his fairly heavy porter with the almost too-apropos name of Texas Exile. Savvy locals have been forced to smuggle these brews back into town after trips to places like Denver.
You see, until recently, Texas law wouldn’t allow Fullelove to brew beer in the state while retaining ownership of Petrol Station. Lucky for him, though, the law was one of many craft beer restrictions loosened in June of last year, and Fullelove, now brandishing a brewer’s permit from the TABC, expects to have his Brash Brewing Company open by this fall in a 13,000-square-foot facility on Crosstimbers in Independence Heights. “I wanted to have a full-production brewery, to can and distribute it so you can find it all over,” Fullelove said. “That’s been the dream. I’m so excited to bring this beer home.”
Make no mistake, though: the process wasn’t easy. “The [TABC officials] just weren’t familiar with what you could and couldn’t do and how it pertains to owning a bar,” Fullelove said. “They were still incredibly helpful. It just took basically going over the laws together and making sure everything was done correctly.”
Fullelove is now free to legally sell his own beer at Petrol Station and beyond. Because of his ownership of the bar, though, Brash’s distribution will be limited (his system is currently equipped to brew about 4,000 barrels, and he plans to let that number grow “organically”).
The competition, of course, is stiff. More breweries open here every year. “I’m always excited when new places open,” the craft beer veteran said. “You need an outlet for different tastes, different beers. Every place or brewery can thrive with the market growing out there. There’s a captive audience waiting.”
Fullelove said his beers will continue to stay true to the brewery’s brand name. “I love hoppy, aggressive styles and heavy IPAs and I’m sticking with that model for Brash,” he said. “I try to approach it as a beer drinker rather than a businessman, which has worked at Petrol. There’s room for that in Houston.”