By Peter Kelly-Detwiler - TREIA Storyteller in Residence
Search the home page of your local craft brewery and see what you come up with. In all likelihood, you will find yourself looking at a photo of a gleaming stainless steel tap, or massive brewing tanks. Perhaps a glass of craft beer with drops of condensation glistening on the sides. Or maybe you’ll see a photo of the owner’s dog (never a bad choice!).
Chances are, you will not land on a home page that proclaims “Proudly Brewed Using 100% Renewable Energy,” accompanied by a photo of a large wind turbine. Unless, of course, you happen to live in Georgetown Texas, the home of Rentsch Brewery.
Rentsch Brewery is hosting TREIA’s patio reception on “Sunday –Funday,” the kick-off day of TREIA’s annual GridNEXT event. The brewery has a strong focus on sustainable practices. I wanted to find out more about what makes the place tick, so I lined up a call with co-owner Kelsey Rentschler to find out about the origins of the brewery and its focus on sustainability. I also wanted to learn more about the infamous Stein Club.
Fermenting the concept
Kelsey Rentschler serves as the marketing director but also wears multiple hats, including maintaining a social media presence, coordinating tastings and festivals, and anything else that’s customer facing.
Rentschler relayed to me that her husband Andrew – whom she has known since they were children - had been studying German in Europe in 2011. During that tenure, where he spent time in Salzburg and Berlin, he was inspired by the famous Austrian and German biergartens and their well-known concept of ‘gemutlichkeit’ (loosely translated as friendliness or good cheer).
When his parents flew over to visit him, he shared the concept with them and they visited a number of locales together. That’s when they hatched the idea and decided, “let’s do this. Let’s start a brewery.”
Andrew set up a pilot brewing system in his parents’ garage and taught himself the trade from scratch. According to Kelsey, he can learn just about anything he puts his mind to, as long as there’s an instruction manual or YouTube video, “He can pretty much do it all.”
Then Andrew, his father, Kelsey, and another brewing partner decided to go commercial. The next logical question that arose was, “where to locate the business?” Anybody familiar with Austin knows you can throw a rock just about anywhere and splash into a local pitcher of craft brewed beer. But there were no breweries in nearby Georgetown – one of the fastest growing cities, so they opened there on August 29th, 2015. There was, however, just one problem: they had dramatically underestimated the thirst for their offering.
“We sold out super fast.” Rentschler confided. “We ended up having to close for two weeks to make more beer because we sold out. We were kind of in a panic. So we just kept brewing more.”
In response to growing market demand, Rentsch expanded and opened a larger facility in 2017, currently capable of brewing 300,000 gallons a year. With that extra capacity, the brewery has partnered with distributors and the local grocery chain, and the owners are now eyeing some larger potential sales outlets.
In addition to the core four offerings – the flagship Hefeweizen, a Blonde, a New England IPA and a Weizenbock. Rentsch is currently offering a Texas lager and also tempts customers with a continually changing line-up of specialties and seasonal beers, such as a bourbon barrel aged stout, and an Oktoberfest.
Creating its own culture
One of the unique programs Rentsch offered when it opened was its Stein Club, which it limited to 100 people. When the brewery opened, capital was tight, so the Stein Club was created: the first 100 people to pony up $500 would get beer in the taproom at no cost for their lifetimes. Not surprisingly, that club filled up very quickly.
Rentschler commented that the membership can be transferred, but there must be formal record of the transfer. She’s seen people “trying to buy steins for $3,000 – it’s pretty ridiculous. I don’t think we anticipated the amount of beer these people were going to drink!” She noted that taproom employees know all of the Stein Club members by name. Many of those individuals have become members of the broader Rentsch community, often jumping in and volunteer during events.
Outside the tap room, a comfortable and family-friendly beer garden has games for kids and their parents while also being dog-friendly. Any given evening might see Angie the resident rescue chocolate lab mingling with four or five other dogs.
The TREIA reception
Kelsey Rentschler met TREIA marketing director Julie Beggs when she contacted the brewery about hosting an event. Rentschler commented that the notion of a joint effort struck a cord, since Rentsch Brewery not only brews with 100% renewable energy, but focuses on sustainable operations in other ways as well. Besides using an electric forklift and electric hand dryers in the bathroom, Rentsch gives all the spent grain to farmers for use as animal feed.
Rentschler is enthusiastic about the 21 October event, “We are pretty excited to have TREIA here, and we’ve reserved a section on the patio. My husband Andrew is going to give a talk on how we went to renewables and our commitment to sustainability, on how we brew our beer and are making sure we are being good stewards of the environment.”
It may be too late to join the Stein Club, but it’s not too late to join us all on Sunday October 21 from 6-9 PM to close out Sunday-Funday and get ready for a great GridNEXT event!