3 Tips on Hiring, Marketing, and the History of a Texas Brewery | Yelp
What if you could have a beer in your old CP class? A craft brewery housed in a 1930s schoolhouse in Eola, Texas gives oldies the opportunity to do just that. Farm Ale Brewing Co. is both a craft beer maker and destination, equally popular with families, tourists and locals from nearby San Angelo, Texas.
The company brews and cans beer inside the old schoolhouse, but the history of the building is just as important as what’s brewed there, according to Farm Ale master brewer Chris Fisher. “What we’re trying to do is not just be a brewery, but we want to bring the school back and kind of restore some of its former glory,” he said. Eola School served as a community center for this small town (now with a population of 38), before the building closed in 1983.
Under the ownership of Farm Ale Brewing Co., the school takes on new life. Chris said: “I’ve had people here who graduated here, and we can walk them around the building, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, that was the science room. It was the cleaning room. It was math. It was English. We have old graduating photos from 1938 hanging on the hallway walls. We’re trying to bring it back to where people can hang out and have a beer in their freshman class.
Chris’ dedication to honoring history while modernizing the business for a wider audience impressed Yelp reviewer Jos H. “It’s like history coming to life in this building, while sipping really good beer,” he said.
Below, Chris shares some of the business strategies that have helped make Farm Ale Brewing Co. a draw for this Texas community.
1. Give customers a “place to be”
“If you build it, they will come” is rarely true in business. When your brewery is located 25 minutes from the nearest town, you can’t wait for customers to arrive. To help spread the word and build momentum for the future, Chris encourages groups to come to space for events.
“At this time, we don’t charge people to use our site for different functions,” Chris said. “It’s a place, especially for this community, where they’re not going to get accused of an arm and a leg. They want to do something, they have a place to be.
So far Farm Ale has held a community fry, car show, motorcycle meet and even a wedding. Families often bring their children to play in the former Eola school playground, while parents have a few beers. The brewery’s family and community-centric model is especially beneficial for rural communities, where many businesses struggle to stay afloat.
“It acts like this really nice adhesive for cultural development, [both for people] who maybe are big beer drinkers and people who aren’t really there just for the beer, but want some sort of local community outlet where they can go and do stuff,” Josh said.
2. Hire for potential, not experience
Farm Ale Brewing Co. operates by another rule of thumb: hire employees for who they can become, not just who they are. Not only will you be able to train your team members first-hand, but you will also be developing the next generation of ambassadors for your company. Farm Ale’s small team includes a 19-year-old bartender, trained as a line cook to become an executive chef, and a maintenance technician who renovated almost the entire school building himself.
“I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re always looking for the right person, you’re going to pass up a lot of people who might be that right person in the future,” Chris said. “There are so many people who are neglected in this world. It kind of goes back to [my experience in the] military. I made so many people what they are today.
“And that’s what I love here – we take people who might not have had a chance elsewhere, we give them that chance, and we let them blossom into the people they can. being rather than the person they are right now.”
Even Chris is self-taught. The owner, Jason, took a chance, and it paid off. Helped in part by his lack of experience, Chris shrugged off trends and forged his own path in the beer industry, creating an IPA gateway for those wary of high-hopped beers. “I give them the aromatics without that kind of kick in the face or the lingering aftertaste,” he said. “That makes it very drinkable for a wide audience.”
3. Honor your history
When using historic spaces, it is beneficial to honor that history. Rather than tearing it all down and rebuilding it all, recycling an old space can add charm to your business. You might even discover stories that become a crucial part of your company’s identity.
For example, through his own research, Chris learned that Western artists Gene Autry and Roy Rogers once performed at the Eola School. “There’s so much history here, so much heritage here, it’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “When I finally got the chance to work here, I started studying the school’s history.”
All of this history adds value to the business, from customers visiting their old classrooms to tours of Chris’s brewery, which showcases as much history as it does hops. “If I’m doing this tour, I’m not just telling people, ‘This is how we make beer, and this is what our equipment is for,'” he said. school because the school itself is what’s really important… It’s a complete experience.”
From the customer’s perspective, this immersive experience is what makes Farm Ale so memorable. ” They have [taken] the best parts of what was there when it was Eola School and built on that foundation,” Josh said. “They’re making it bigger, better and newer than it was before – repurposing the spaces, not trying to build from scratch, but keeping what’s on the historic nostalgia and amplifying[ing it].”
Farm Ale Brewing Co. & Yelp; editorial by Emily Moon and Holly Hanchey
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the review, the weekly podcast from Yelp & Entrepreneur Media. Listen below to hear Chris and Josh, or visit the episode page for more, subscribe to the show and explore other episodes.
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