Two local beverage producers and a bitters maker were among the recipients of the Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s 2015 grants program, which this year gave out a total of $40,000, the largest amount since the organization began providing grant money in 2011.
The Austin Food & Wine Alliance awards grants each year to culinary innovators in Central Texas who are seeking to expand their businesses in some way and, by extension, Austin’s own blossoming food and drink scene. The nonprofit gave the largest grant, $12,000 to Texas Keeper Cider. Other beverage-related grant recipients included Meridian Hive Meadery, $8,000, and Salud! Bitters Co., $5,000.
Two Hives Honey, Urban Roots and Manor High School Culinary Arts Program also received grants from the alliance, according to a press release.
Each one has specific uses in mind for the grants. Texas Keeper Cider, for instance, wants to use the money toward opening the cidery’s taproom to the public, a project that co-founders Lindsey Peebles, Nick Doughty and Brandon Wilde have had in the works for awhile.
“We make our ciders on a beautiful 20-acre piece of an old ranch in Manchaca,” Peebles said via email. “Right next door to the tiny cellar that we built in 2014, there is an old stone farm/ ranch house that we are in the process of converting into our taproom. We will serve our own ciders as well as other hand-selected ciders and mostly Texas wines.”
Getting the grant from the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, Peebles said, was an affirmation that Texas Keeper is on the right track. “Having an organization like AFWA recognize your project like that — it was the exact type of encouragement that I think we needed,” Peebles said.
Ultimately, the goal of the Texas Keeper Cider founders is that the taproom be a place for far more than showcasing their ciders.
“The place will be about more than just drinking,” Peebles said. “We have the space there to host local food artisans and chefs for food pairings, supper clubs, etc. We want to use the taproom to throw events supporting local farm and food nonprofits as well. We plan to have beehives, a vegetable garden, and chickens — all of which will be utilized by the food producers coming out there. I see it as a place to really celebrate cider, food, and our local food makers and growers.”
Meridian Hive Meadery, Austin’s first producer of drinks made from fermented honey, has similar plans for expansion. Meadery co-founders Eric Lowe, Evan Whitehead and Mike Simmons are looking to rework the types of meads they make.
“When we started, our business plan was to produce 50 percent corked meads and 50 percent session meads,” Lowe said via email. “Our production has been more like 90 percent sessions and 10 percent corked meads. We’re going the best we can with the equipment we purchased, but we need to retool to make our processes much more efficient in producing the sessions.”
Their plan, which they’ll fund with the Austin Food & Wine Alliance grant, will double the amount they make of both each month, allowing them to spread more deeply into Austin, as well as San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.
“This grant comes at the perfect time for us,” Lowe said.