Marc Atnipp’s favorite Texas brewery, Big Bend Brewing, hasn’t gotten its beers as far east as Houston yet, where he lives. Although he can’t regularly pick up a six-pack of the West Texas brews at his local liquor store, his desire for the beer sparked an idea: What if other beer lovers in this state are also missing out on some of their favorite Texas beers?
He and his friend Rob Banzhaf, both in the Woodlands area of Houston, recently started a beer-of-the-month club that focuses entirely on getting Texas beers to members’ doorsteps.
“The goal is to get folks some beers they might not run into on a regular basis,” he said. “Beers that might not be distributed to their area, so maybe they haven’t even heard of them.”
The Texas Craft Beer Club features two breweries each month and sends to members two different styles of their beers. Most recently, for example, people who signed up for the 3-month or 6-month memberships on the texascraftbeerclub.com site received 12 beers of Austin’s Infamous Brewing and Dallas’ Four Corners Brewing, as well as beer-related merchandise like koozies.
Later months will feature 903 Brewers from Sherman, Oak Highlands Brewery from Dallas and Atnipp’s beloved Big Bend Brewing from Alpine. Houston’s 11 Below Brewing is also lined up.
“Oak Highlands is six months old, so they’re just starting to build a customer base. It’s great to be able to help them with that,” he said. “Working with these breweries and helping them get the word out about their products, that’s a big deal to us. We get to know these breweries personally and try to pass that along to our customers.”
In conjunction with the Texas Craft Beer Club, Atnipp and Banzhaf have started up a podcast, Life by the Gulp, that spreads the gospel of Texas beer, with each of the partnering breweries spotlighted.
Beer isn’t the only focus of the business. A portion of the profits are donated to the Will Herndon Fund for Juvenile Batten Disease, a rare, genetic neurodegenerative disorder that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, despite its deadly outcome. Because the fund — and the boy who inspired it — originated from the Woodlands, where both of the beer club founders are from, they’ve known about the disease and want to do their part to stop it.
“So few people in the world have it that when our friend had a child who was diagnosed with it, there wasn’t any research out there about it,” Atnipp said. “The money goes to a team of researchers who are looking for possible cures that may help the children lead more normal lives… It’s a cause personal to us.”
The grassroots movement of the Will Herndon Fund, which has rallied the Woodlands community around the cause, is akin in some ways to the craft beer movement, he said: “They both start on a local level, then grow with a sense of community.”
Already, he said, the Texas Craft Beer Club gained almost 300 members within its first month of business.
The options currently are to buy a 3-month membership for $150, a 3-month membership with a gift pack for $175 or a 6-month membership for $300. Among the extras you’ll get — besides two six-packs of beer, each with two different styles from two Texas breweries — are a branded T-shirt, a pint glass and a club membership card that doubles as a bottle opener.
And as the beer-of-the-month club grows, Atnipp said, expect a variety of regional beers to show up on your doorstep: “beers from new breweries or beers from established breweries that are maybe new or seasonal or limited for a time.”
“It’s been fun working with the different breweries, seeing their passion for their products,” he said.