By Terry Card, Photos by Christa Schreckengost
No longer is it necessary to go off the island to tour a brewery. The welcome addition of Galveston West End’s new brew pub features tours of its facilities, and when the tour ends, the tap room provides a well-earned relaxation venue with cold beer in hand.
Unlike tours at larger and highly sophisticated breweries that serve large regions, states and the nation, this brewery tour is up close and personal. No standing behind plexi-glass looking in. You are right there, amongst the tanks, each of which has been named after one of the owner’s nieces or nephews and one after his daughter. Apparently, it is a tradition in the brewing business to name your tanks after family or celebrities. Starting with a 7.5 barrel tank when the brewery opened in May 2014, Mark has now added two 10 barrel tanks, one 15 barrel and most recently a 20 barrel tank.
Waylon, his 2.5 barrel experimental tank, was most recently used to produce Galveston’s first Sargassum beer, a very smooth and great tasting beer, which based on its immediate popularity, will become a regular brew offering. It is a great way to make use of the seaweed that overwhelmed our beaches in 2014.
While taking the tour you will be afforded the opportunity to learn about the brewing process in as much detail as you could possibly want. Under the guidance of Head Brewer, Jason Stromberg, an expert in German beer making, the brewery produces 80 barrels or 16,000 pints of beer each month.
The process starts with malting the grain by submerging it in hot water for one hour, producing the enzymes that will allow conversion from starches in the grain to fermentable sugars during the mash process. The resultant liquid is drained into the brew house boiler where 200 gallons is boiled for a period of seven hours before it is drained, and the grain dried. 1,200 pounds of the dried grain is collected for feed each week by a pig farmer.
Hops are then added to the brew, which are used for flavoring and as a preservative agent. These plants, which are the female flower clusters of the hop vine, add several essentials to the brewing process – a bitterness that balances the sweetness of the malt, as well as adding floral, citrus, and herbal aromas and flavors, an antibiotic effect, and finally as an aid in the foamy “head retention.”
Yeast, which is responsible for fermenting the beer, is added after the beer has been cooled using a heat exchanger. The resulting liquid is stored in the various tanks for seven to ten days during which time the yeast metabolizes the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, turning the wort into beer. The yeast also influences the character and flavor of the beer. Depending on the type of beer desired, either ale yeast, lager yeast or Bavarian yeast for German beer is utilized in the process.
Mark Dell’Osso, the young man responsible for bringing Galveston Island Brewery to the West End ultimately followed his longtime dream. However, it was anything but a direct line to its fruition. There were many deviations along the way, some of his making, and others created by obstacles thrown into his path.
He was born in Clear Lake where he became an avid sailor. Both his father and Grandfather were born in Galveston and, after graduating from high school, he attended Texas A&M at Corpus Christi before transferring for his final two years to Texas A&M University of Galveston to complete a degree in Business Administration. After finishing college, he worked for three years as a shipping agent and saved enough to be able to quit and go for a three year sailing adventure in the Caribbean with his wife. Returning to Galveston with no job prospects, he luckily was able to put his sailing and boating knowledge to good use on a tugboat running supplies and equipment for the construction of the new railroad bridge next to the causeway. He was making good money as was his wife, Liesel, who worked at UTMB. And, as is so often the case, the age old saying is true, “behind every successful man, there is a good woman.” It was Liesel who pushed to save every penny they could over three years, knowing that Mark was keen on expanding his long-time hobby of homebrewing, into a business.
As it turned out, self-financing the brewery was the only option after being refused financing at every turn. During those three years, in addition to applying for financing, Mark spent many hours negotiating with building owners downtown, thinking the perfect location was in sight, only to be frustrated by regulators time and again.
Finally, the building Galveston Island Brewery now occupies became available. Its location in the West End had fewer restrictions and regulation requirements than the downtown venues, and he was able to work out a leasing arrangement with the new owner of the building. With modifications, the steel building was ideal, and the front yard would provide a recreation area as well as parking space. During the construction and equipment installation process, he watched as his life savings rapidly diminished with no offsetting income. Stress set in as he had to pay rent in addition to the costs of creating the brewery. Then he wondered, if after all this effort and cost – what would happen if no customers came in?
He was able to obtain the Sundowner (stadium seating) now in front from a distress sale and that has become a focal point for viewing bands and special events. His growing customer base delights in relaxing outside, taking in the music and drinking his fine beer. The inside seating is excellent as well, with a newly remodeled and expanded bar area and quaint, private conversation seating in the back.
Mark’s personal brew favorite is Citra Mellon, an IPA, but he offers a selection of IPA’s, lager, amber and dark beers ranging in alcohol content from 5.1% to 8.3%.
One of the features of a small brew pub is special requests from customers allowing the mixing of beer from the taps to get the taste desired.
Business hours are Monday-Thursday 4-10pm, Friday 3pm-12 midnight, Saturday 12 noon-12 midnight, and Sunday 12-10pm.
For private events, rent the Barrel Room which contains high alcohol beer aged for 9 to 12 months in premium barrels purchased from the U.S. bourbon region.
For further information and locations where Galveston Island Brewery beer is sold go to www.galvestonislandbrewing.com.
Free Tours of the brewery are Saturdays at 1pm.