Ask Michael Steeves why he and co-owners Todd Donewar and James "Huggy Bear" Wolf decided to call their brewery Local Group, and he'll tell you a story about the TV show Cosmos.
"They did the galactic address, and if it went backwards it'd be like 'Universe, Virgo Supercluster, Local Group of galaxies, the Milky Way, Solar System, third planet being Earth, Texas, and then you are here,'" Steeves says. "It's not like I have a detailed knowledge of space and science, but I have a massive fascination with how massive the universe is. To me it's mind-blowing thing."
But then there's craft beer, which Steeves says is all about being local. So to him, there's a dichotomy between the vastness of the universe and the very tiny but focused brewery within it, and the common word is "local."
"You put so much thought into it, it has to mean something to you," says Steeves.
If there's one thing to say about Local Group, it's that a lot of thought was put into the brewery that opens Friday at 1504 Chapman St. in Near Northside. The methodical approach to building out the 7,500-foot brewpub underscores transparency: Visitors can see into the 10-barrel brewhouse, into the full-service kitchen that's specializing in elevated brewpub fare, and into the cold box where kegs are lined up, storing the four-plus beers ready for opening day (ultimately there'll be 16 on tap).
"We're making some good stuff and we're not afraid to show it," says Wolf.
The Local Group story started about seven years ago when Donewar and Steeves, who both work at BP, started drinking and, later, brewing beer together. Soon they wanted to open a public brewery and taproom, so they searched for locations. They didn't find the Near Northside spot until spring 2018.
While it took the team a while to secure licenses and equipment, they found their brewmaster quickly.
"Todd and I were brewing in the garage, and we made good beer but at the end of the day we wanted to step up the game a little bit," says Steeves. "We met Huggy in April of '18 and as soon as we met we knew that was a good fit."
Wolf was head brewer at Katy's No Label Brewing Co. before moving onto Southern Star for a spell. Here he gets to write the first chapter of Local Group, and that means accessible beers that play to a wide audience. First offerings include Sparkle Motion, an American sparkling ale (think a blonde ale with carbonation); Chef's Hefe, a hefeweizen; Li'l Star, a sessionable stout; and Double Vertigo, a double New England IPA. Right on its heels will be a hoppier IPA; a lower-alcohol New England IPA; Athena's Elixir, a fruited kettle sour (with rotating fruit and other flavors); and Horchatanita, a light horchata-inspired beer.
Wolf is excited to give customers a lot of options (he test-batched about 130 beers, many of whose names are written on a refrigerator in the brewhouse). Sometimes those beers will go very well with the food offered at Local Group. From its full kitchen run by chef Jeff Samoska (Post Oak Hotel), the brewery will cook up everything from wings and gouda macaroni and cheese to salads, burgers, and other meaty dishes using 44 Farms beef, and a couple poutines (Steeves is from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada).
Guests will be able to order at the bar or from roaming server/bartenders with tablets, then sit in the futurism-inspired, minimalist taproom or side patio. Dogs are welcome outside, and kids are welcome anytime. With its blue and yellow color scheme and playful universe mural (which goes right back to the name of the brewery), it's one of the most inviting breweries in the city.
"A lot of these places it's all about the beer," says Steeves. "But we also want to have a great atmosphere."
Local Group will be open 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tues–Thurs, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri and Sat, and 11 a.. to 9 p.m. Sun (brunch served exclusively).