A couple of years ago, we did a story about Fort Worth's "brew zone," seven breweries within a 3-square-mile area near downtown Fort Worth. And the number of breweries is going to grow.
Started by a group of homebrewing friends, Funky Picnic Brewery & Cafe is due to open next spring at 401 Bryan Ave. in South Main Village, which has already seen several restaurant and retail openings this year and late last year, and is expected to see more.
The area is already home to two of the "brew zone" spots — The Collective Brewing Project, a couple of blocks west of South Main, and Hop Fusion Ale Works, a couple of blocks east — but Funky Picnic is aiming to be a full-service restaurant as well as a brewery.
"We're really wanting to create a space where people can come in, have beers that are made right there, a comfortable air-conditioned or heated area where kids are welcome and you can eat something while enjoying your drink and enjoying your company," says Samantha Glenn, one of Funky Picnic's four co-founders.. Glenn has been homebrewing for about five years and will be involved full time with Funky Picnic, according to her bio on the Funky Picnic website.
The Funky Picnic team also includes Collin Zreet, who began homebrewing while studying aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and has an extensive brewing background, and Jenni Hanley & John Koch (she has an advertising background and will consult on marketing strategies for Funky Picnic; he has an engineering background that will be put to use in building and maintaining equipment; and they both also have extensive brewing backgrounds).
According to the Funky Picnic website, the friends went from brewing in a garage to becoming more serious about the science and equipment of their calling. The homebrewing developed into the Fort Brewing Co., eventually entering homebrew competitions and winning awards in them.
"Unfortunately, laws requiring state and national licensing to sell beer mean that we can't stay cooped up in that garage forever," the website says, and the search to build a brewery and cafe began. Because of a trademark dispute with a national brewer, the name changed from Fort Brewing to Funky Picnic Brewery & Cafe.
The "Cafe" part helps set Funky Picnic apart a little. Collective Brewing regularly hosts Sunday brunches put on by Jay Cee Hospitality and led by Fort Worth chef Jen Williams. And restaurant/bars such as The Bearded Lady — which recently announced that it will close its 5-year-old Magnolia Avenue location on June 27 and reopen in a larger space on South Main in the fall — put an emphasis on craft beer.
But aside from what used to be known as Chimera Brewing Co. — till, in a coincidence, it recently changed its name to Fort Brewery & Pizza — Glenn says that Funky Picnic will be the only restaurant on the Near Southside that makes its brews on-site.
"We have a seven-barrel brewing system so that we can create small batches just to sell on-site," she says. "We're not planning on doing distribution. And then we have a kitchen. Our focus is going to be on appetizers [and] fancy sandwiches, like artisan sandwiches. That way, it's still a lot of simplicity but variety."
Glenn says that they want to stay flexible, and there may be further adjustments, such as making their own bread, using grain from the brewery. "Incorporating the beer and the brewing ingredients into the food," she says, "and incorporating the food into the beer as well."
The cafe and the bar area will have windows allowing diners to see into the brewery area, and will offer classes and activities to teach customers about the brewing process and make it more accessible to people.
Despite the North Texas craft-beer scene that has been growing since pioneers such as Near Southside/South Main neighbor Rahr & Sons Brewery was founded in 2004 — and really began to roll around 2011 — Glenn says she still encounters people who have difficulty understanding craft beer.
"It's still less than 20 percent of the marketplace," she says. "So most people still think of the big guys as beer. And that's traditionally one style. That's a kind of pretty easygoing pilsner, not a lot of flavor. If that flavor doesn't resonate with somebody, they think that they don't like beer. Our motto is that there's a craft beer for every taste. You can have a beer that tastes like apple pie."
Or turtle cheesecake, such as the Turtle Delight Stout that Funky Picnic recently did in collaboration with Mansfield-based Dirty Job Brewing. "We've done 'beermosas' with either a hefeweizen or a wit with orange juice just to make it more accessible to people that aren't used to drinking beer and try to change their mind about what beer really is," Glenn says.
Near Southside businesses tend to work together, as in the case of occasional "Pup crawls" in which dog owners take their pets for stops at Pouring Glory Growler Fill Station, Hopfusion and Collective.
"Carly [Taylor] at Collective Brewing puts that on, and when we were looking, she said, 'You can join our pup crawl," Glenn says. "We don't really have much of an outdoor space, but one of the key things we say is 'Fort Worth is our patio.' We will sell beers and food to go."
Funky Picnic is due to open in spring 2019, although opening dates can be tough to hit. "Most of the time I just say 2019," Glenn says with a laugh. The brewery will have a caffeinated neighbor as Roots Coffeehouse, a North Richland Hills favorite, also plans to open a Bryan Avenue location, across the street from Funky Picnic. That's also due in 2019, according to a post on the Roots Facebook page.
And the "brew zone" will get an another additional brewery soon: Cowtown Brewing Co., which will be a craft-beer and barbecue joint at 1301 E. Belknap St. on the northeast edge of downtown, has been posting about its progress on its Facebook page.
The Design-Build Team for 401 Bryan Ave. consists of Robb Farmer and Jennifer Neil at F5 designBUILD; they are also listed as developer landlord, along with Michael A. Todora. For updates on Funky Picnic, follow @funkypicnic on Facebook.