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ETX Brewing Company: Good Times Are Brewing Downtown

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By Johnny Griffith

If you ask ten different people on the street what comes to mind when they hear the word “beer,” odds are you’ll get ten distinctly different answers. Ask the same question of Brian and Matt Gilstrap and you’ll get one answer: family.

Brian and Matt, along with Brian’s wife Annie, are the founders and operators of ETX Brewing Company, Tyler’s second brewery to open and the newest addition to the growing downtown rebirth here in the Rose City.

Originally born in Arlington, both the brothers Gilstrap moved around Texas over the years after attending Texas State University in San Marcos. Brian and Annie met in college where he majored in Business Finance, and Matt majored in Computer Science. Following a move by Brian and Annie to Tyler in 2005 due to a promotion and now living in different parts of the state, Matt and Brian would come together to hang out for the weekend and began brewing beer as a hobby. Twelve years later, they realized their longtime vision of transforming the hobby into a business and now genuinely live their motto for ETX Brewing, “Do What You Love, Love What You Do.”

When the vision became a reality, Matt sold his house in Austin, left his job, and moved to Tyler to help with the task of taking the brewery from the garage to the masses. After considering several different locations, the Gilstrap’s finally settled on a former tire service center just off downtown on S. Broadway. After several months of hard work, the vast majority of which was done themselves, the crew at ETX Brewing Company opened their brewery and taproom in January of this year to rave reviews and thirsty crowds.

With art from local artists hanging on the walls and beer brewed on site in the facility visible from the bar, flowing through the taps, ETX Brewing Company has the feel of something you’d find on either South Congress in Austin or downtown Ft. Worth. There is a decidedly modern feel, but not so much that the character of the owners doesn’t show through. Brian and Matt kept the roll-up doors of the former service center in place, which allows the bar area to have a more open feel and beckons passersby on South Broadway to stop in and take a break from their hectic schedules.

I recently sat down with Matt and Brian to talk with them about the Brewery and sample some of their libations.

Johnny: Of all the things you could be doing in life, why a brewery?

ETX Brewery: Brewing quality beer has been a hobby and a passion for the brothers for many years now. Four and a half years ago Brian and Annie had twins born prematurely at 25 weeks gestation weighing in at 11 oz. and 9 oz. They were immediately care-flighted to a higher level NICU in Dallas, where they spent the next 4.5 months. Matt made the drive every other weekend to spend time with them in the hospital. At that point, perspective on life, in general, changed forever. Life is far too precious and short to not be spending it doing what you love.

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Johnny: What was THE beer that hooked you into the craft scene?

ETX Brewery: Unanimously, Dogfish Head 60min IPA was the beer we all shared together and loved.

Johnny: How did you get from your first batch of homebrew to a full blown brewery?

ETX Brewery: A lot of reading and educating ourselves on new techniques. We were constantly striving to make better beer each time. Practice! Practice! Practice! And of course, sampling the product and asking others for feedback.

Johnny: What have been some of the biggest challenges to get to this point?

ETX Brewery: With any new business, there are challenges of finances and construction, but the nature of opening a brewery brings additional legal hurdles, deciding on the size of equipment, and what beers to commit to brewing. Add to that the fact that we pretty much did all of the work on the brewery ourselves, it gives us a deep appreciation of where we are now.

Johnny: How much of a foothold does craft beer have in east Texas at this point?

ETX Brewery: Craft beer is just on the cusp of becoming big here in east Texas. For a large majority of east Texans, they are new to experiencing craft beer and especially to visiting a brewery. Our goal is really to provide an education to help people understand more about craft beer and what to look for when choosing a brew.
Johnny: How important was the location in the downtown area?

ETX Brewery: We were thrilled to have found a location in the downtown area. We love being a part of the revitalization that is happening Downtown! With all of the amazing businesses going in on and around the square, Downtown Tyler is turning into a “must see” for locals and visitors alike.

Johnny: What will customers be able to do at the brick and mortar location? Buy beer? Drink beer? Fill growlers? Hear live music?

ETX Brewery: Our tap room will have a variety of beers available at all times, which will be changing on a regular basis. Customers will be able to come in and sample or purchase these varieties by the pint. We will have live music on a regular basis, too. Our goal is to be a fun, laid back atmosphere to relax and enjoy a good brew with good company. We are also currently in the works to plan monthly events where a majority of the proceeds will go back to local charities here in east Texas.

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Johnny: What is the beer lineup currently?

ETX Brewery: We currently have 6 beers on tap:

  • Test Batch 1 – An American Pale Ale, a bright filtered Golden Ale
  • Red House Wheat – An American Wheat unfiltered with slight notes of orange
  • 1846 IPA – Easy drinking and flavorful from the heavy dry hopping with El Dorado hops
  • Test Batch 2 – Blonde Ale, unfiltered and dry-hopped after fermentation to add a floral aroma
  • Coffee City Stout – A Stout made with coffee, chocolate, and oatmeal (made with Belgian chocolate and locally roasted coffee from Coffee City USA)
  • Hitching Post – Amber Ale, a perfect balance of malt and hops producing caramel notes and a malty sweetness

Coming soon: Black IPA – A Mexican Lager, American pale ale

We also have a non-alcoholic Root Beer which we make in house.

Johnny: I know you just opened, but what’s next on your agenda for ETX Brewing?

ETX Brewery: We’d like to improve the site and make a friendly space for food trucks, so we have something in the works for that as well as an area out back for live music and more seating. The response has been fantastic so far, and the atmosphere downtown is bringing more traffic back to the area, so we want to make sure we’re in a position to take care of the people who decide to spend their time hanging out with us.

Johnny: What kind of experience are you hoping new customers will take away from ETX Brewing?

ETX Brewery: We hope they will walk away with a better understanding of craft beer. A lot of people are afraid to try a craft beer when they see it on a menu at a restaurant. We want to take that fear away and empower the customer to know what they are looking for in craft beers.

ETX Brewing Company is located at 221 S. Broadway in Downtown Tyler. For more info call (903)630-7720, find them on www.facebook.com/ETXBrew or go to etxbrew.com.

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Bars

New Cocktails inline for “A Toast to CORE” at Razzoo’s this Summer!

Razzoo’s Cajun Café Partners To Support Restaurant Families

For over 25 years, guests have flocked to Razzoo’s Cajun Café expecting exceptional Cajun food in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. However, many may not know that Razzoo’s has a fantastic array of craft cocktails featuring fine spirits and fresh fruits and juices. On June 11th, Razzoo’s launched two new specialty cocktails in a promotion titled “A Toast to CORE.”

For every sale of these new drinks, Razzoo’s will donate $1 to “CORE, Children of Restaurant Employees.” Tito’s Handmade Vodka will match that donation, up to $5,000.

The tasty new cocktails include: Tito’s Peach Thyme Smash (Tito’s vodka, Fresh Peaches, Sweet & Sour and Thyme), and Tito’s Twizted Strawberry (Tito’s vodka, Fresh Strawberries, Lemons, a splash of Sprite with a Twizzler straw).

CORE grants support to children of food and beverage service navigating life-altering circumstances. In times of extreme strain brought on by family death, injury or diagnosed medical condition, loss of home, or other sudden or extreme circumstances, food and beverage families can become overwhelmed financially and emotionally. CORE is the nationally recognized community of support for all food and beverage service families in need by ensuring they feel cared for and valued. Since 2004, CORE has raised more than $3 million and granted support to more than 350 families from across the industry and the country. Contributions from our COREporate Members and individual donors allows CORE to provide grants that keep our families safe, healthy, and happy.

“A Toast to CORE” will be celebrated through August 30th at all twenty Razzoo’s Cajun Café locations in Texas and North Carolina.

“At Razzoo’s we try not to take ourselves too seriously. What we do take seriously is our food and our service. To us, nothing is more fun than treating our guests to great food and a great time in one of our restaurants. That’s why we’re here. Our food is authentic, it’s made from scratch every day in each restaurant and it’s darn good. Some of it sounds a little weird, like Rat Toes (really, they aren’t) or the Grilled Gator Tail (really, it is). Some of it is hard to pronounce, like the Shrimp Piquant or Chicken Tchoupitoulas – feel free to point when you order (that happens a lot). We’ve been at this for over 26 years and we’ve made a lot of friends along the way. We’d like to think that didn’t happen by accident. So check out our menu, find the nearest location and hop in the car. We’ll be at the door when you get here.”

Razzo’s is located at 7011 S. Broadway in Tyler, 903)534-2922, razzoos.com/tyler. They feature live music every Thursday evening starting at 6pm. July and August line up is:

  • July 5th: Chris Colston Acoustic
  • July 12th: The Haggertys
  • July 19th: Blue Louie Acoustic
  • July 26th: The Mansion Family
  • August 2nd: The Leftovers
  • August 9th: Riley Redding
  • August 16th: Tyler Dudley
  • August 23rd: Ally Venable
  • August 30th: Al and the Longshots

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SportsZone Bar and Grill: A Cornucopia Culture of Downtown

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The SportsZone Bar and Grill:

A Cornucopia Culture of Downtown

By Barbara Greenbauer

The SportsZone Bar and Grill on the Square in Downtown Tyler is now a go-to spot to eat, hangout and get your fill of sports- themed fun and entertainment.

Josh Collins, local owner and operator, wants everyone to know that “Downtown has a new lunch spot” and it’s a great local bar and grill that is all about community with a “Cheers-type mentality, where everyone is welcome.”

The place is light, bright, and filled with sports memorabilia, with a great-looking bar and high tabletops galore. With a brand new revamped menu, the SportsZone is ready to bring you great food in a space with a different vibe than your regular sports scene. It’s never a loud, in-your face crowd, there’s plenty of parking Downtown, and plenty to do inside.

While you try your hand at the pool or foosball tables, you can chow down on a great burger with a side of waffle fries. You will really get your fill of sports, as the restaurant is lined with 10 big screen TV’s. The view from any seat in the house is stellar. There is always a Texas team on the screen somewhere in the restaurant. There’s even TV’s in the restrooms because they don’t want you to miss a second!

Dart aficionados can try their luck at the dart boards or try your hand at a game of beer pong.

“We really support the Downtown culture,” says Collins. “We can be the spot to go to before or after a show at Liberty Theater. I don’t think folks in Tyler realize how many people live and work Downtown and the community continues to grow.”

The Bar and Grill supports local events like Red Dirt BBQ and Music Festival, Hit the Bricks 2nd Saturdays, and the Rose City Farmer’s Market, “to support and spread the word about the great things happening Downtown,” said Collins.

Step inside the bar and grill and you will want to hang out, use the free Wi-Fi, watch some TV, and taste what the kitchen has to offer.

The edible options at the SportsZone are fast and healthy too. Lunch variables include an out of this world chipotle black bean veggie burger, seared tuna salad, and a grilled chicken salad. Lunch is served Monday-Friday 11am-2pm.

The bar and grill, open 7 days a week, features a great mixture of fare, from “Beginners” like onion rings, pickle fries, frito chili pie, chili cheese waffle fries, “Not your Mamas’s Churros,” humus and naan bread, and battered corn bites.

For more hearty appetites, try the ultimate BLT, fried chicken sandwich, chicken fingers, or their spectacular wings. Their wings are uniquely double-baked with choice of BBQ, lemon pepper, flaming hot or special Zone sauce. The new chickenless wings are so good that you won’t even realize that they are vegetarian! They can also handle to-go orders, but guarantee fast and efficient service during the peak lunch hours. “We want to be known as the new Tyler lunch destination,” said Collins.

The “Out of the Oven” pizzas include margarita, Hawaiian, or the much requested, “Build your own” with toppings including pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, Canadian bacon, black olives, mushrooms, jalapenos, and roasted tomatoes. You can get a super lunch special with a slice of pizza, side salad and a drink for just $8.

The bar is a fully-stocked cornucopia of Texas liquors and beers and the bartenders are super friendly and accommodating. From Lone Star, Shiner, Deep Ellum and ET Brewery, and True Vine – you’ll find it at SportsZone. Every Tuesday, if it’s made in Texas, it’s on special. And if you are looking for something more exotic, the bar can handle almost any drink imaginable, all you have to do is ask!

There are always specials and giveaways going on – from Happy Hours to buckets of beer. Check their website and Facebook regularly to see what’s happening. “A lot of our patrons are regular customers, but by word of mouth and social media, we’ve begun attracting a new group of folks who love being Downtown and taking advantage of all we have to offer,” said Collins.

Come grab a drink, see a game and have a great meal at The SportsZone Bar and Grill, located at 115 E. Erwin, Downtown Tyler on the Square. Like them on Facebook at SportsZoneTyler, or Sportzonetyler.com. You can contact them at (903)266-9132. They are open Sundays 12pm-12am, Monday-Friday 11am-12am, Saturday 12pm-1am.

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