Only a mile from downtown Waco, something has Elm Avenue hopping.
“I think there’s a lot of excitement,” David Stoneking said. “People have rediscovered it. Waco is growing. Now we’re growing on this side of the river too.”
Stoneking (’07) and Jacob Martinka are the founders of Brotherwell Brewing. Their brewery is located minutes from the iconic Waco Suspension Bridge down the newly-revitalized Elm Avenue.
Brotherwell may just be ahead of the curve. Up and down the street, people are starting to realize the potential of Elm Avenue as a destination. This potential is what led Brotherwell to Elm in the first place when they bought the former Rubel Junk Company building and transformed it into a full-fledged brewery.
However, the Brotherwell story starts long before they arrived on Elm.
Stoneking and Martinka first became interested in homebrewing, and they stepped up their game one batch at a time. After a few years, they had developed a following among family and friends to the point where they were being asked to brew beer specifically for parties and weddings.
“It was three years ago,” Stoneking, a former film student at Baylor, recalled. “Initially our goal was to cover the cost. You know, brew kegs for friends, cover the cost of the grain and the hops. It was just like this slow step ladder upwards until we finally just said, ‘I think we’re doing a full brewery.’”
They began to purchase equipment that could help them drastically increase production.
“Just getting off the ground is extremely hard,” Stoneking said. “We wanted to brew beer, but then we had to learn how to start a company. Where do you find money and how do you ask for it, and then when they’re ready to give it, how do you structure it?”
After a few years of raising funds, they moved into the former scrapyard and transformed it into the brewery you see today. “We were brewing 10 gallons at a time on a good day,” Stoneking said of life before Brotherwell fully came into fruition. “Now this system brews about 465 gallons at a time.” Lately that slow step ladder seems to be moving a lot faster.
The brewery itself is becoming a destination. With guided tours and plans to build out the tap room, Brotherwell is excited about being able to share the brewing experience with the Waco community. Starting in the grain room, the brewers want to show every step of the brewing process, finally ending at the bar where they’re pouring beer.
“When we launched, we were focused on getting beer out to bars. What we didn’t realize is how much people wanted to come here and see the tank, see the space, be here.”
When asked about how Brotherwell fits into Waco’s culture, Stoneking saw a void being filled. “We are providing something that everybody else across the state is enjoying, which is this local made craft beer experience and product. It’s surprising that a town this size has lagged behind the craft brew movement nationwide. But local restaurants are learning to expand into the craft beer market.”
Waco residents aren’t the only ones who should be excited. With Waco’s growing tourism industry, Brotherwell is looking to provide a must-see experience for visitors and locals alike. The city’s recent growth points toward Elm Avenue as the next in line for expansion across the river, as the area is lining up real estate investors and trendy businesses. Brotherwell is proud to be one of its building blocks.