Editor's note: This article is powered by Southern Draw magazine, the Daily Light's quarterly guide to entertainment south of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The newest issue will be available in mid-June.
Though it seemed at one time that the train may never pull into a permanent station, the past year has been quite the blur for Richard and Shannan Womack at Railport Brewing Company.
It's now time to celebrate — anniversary-style.
Railport Brewing Company opened as the first-ever microbrewery, or any brewery for that matter, in Ellis County on May 26, 2018. The grand opening was the culmination of a three-year journey from kitchen to warehouse to taps at restaurants around Ellis County and beyond.
That success will be on display Friday and Saturday.
The celebration begins at 5 p.m. Friday with Josh Jaccard, the self-proclaimed one-man-band hailing from Waxahachie.
Festivities Saturday begin at 1 p.m. with Casey Maynard and Alex Engelhardt playing an acoustic song swap on Railport's outdoor stage. Midnight Sun will take the stage at about 3 p.m. before Best Served Cold closes out the evening from 5—8 p.m.
This weekend will also feature the release of Ellis County Pride, which will soon be Railport's fifth beer in distribution. ECP is a Kolsch-style beer brewed with Burleson's Orange Blossom Honey.
Railport will also bring back its birthday beer, Southern Raised, which checks in at 11.2 percent alcohol by volume (limit one).
"I am glad it's here," Richard said of the upcoming weekend. "Our first year was a blur and I am excited to see so many people who have been a part of this and cannot wait to celebrate with them. That's been the best thing — just meeting all of the people, as well as working with the community for all of the special events we've helped put on."
Anita Brown Simpson, Waxahachie Downtown Development Director, said the city staff has "been thrilled to watch the success of our first downtown brewery this past year."
"Railport is a great asset to downtown and a wonderful community partner," Brown continued. "It’s exciting to see their distribution channels increase both locally and regionally and further spread the awareness and influence of downtown Waxahachie. We’re so proud that the owners chose downtown Waxahachie as their home and we look forward to many years of continued success and partnerships."
For those who haven't yet attended a brewery tour, Railport Brewing Company began as a brewing competition between the Womacks on a stovetop and outdoor burner some three years ago. The five- and one-gallon pots are still on display inside the brewery for proof.
Though first few brews were "the worst beer ever," even forcing Richard to hang up the brewer's apron for about six months, the itch to bring a local brewery to the county returned.
It then evolved into the Midlothian Craft Beer Project, as the couple has lived in Midlothian proper for over 16 years now, before being derailed due to zoning disputes and an eight-month delay in approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
The couple then secured a space capable of housing the brewery, taproom and entertainment space in February 2017. The Waxahachie City Council then approved an amendment to allow a brewery into the city limits on March 9, 2017.
Richard graduated from brewers' school at Eastfield College a few days later.
With the Michigan-based Psycho Brew brewing system in place at 405 W Madison St. in Waxahachie, permits secured and stamp of approval from the government, Railport Brewing Company eventually nailed down the recipes to its four flagship brews.
The first was Tender Mercy, an American sweet stout with notes of whiskey, vanilla bean, and cocoa. It carries an 8.2 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and 30 International Bitterness Units (IBUs).
For those new to the craft-beer world, BerghoffBeer.com explains the average ABV of an American beer is between 4-6 percent but can range from 2—12 percent. The IBU measures the "bitterness from hops in a beer on a scale of 0 to 100." Hoppy beers, such as Imperial IPAs are in the 80 IBU range.
Railport also launched the Caboose Hop IPA, an India pale ale that uses pilsner malt and citrus hops with 8.7 percent ABV and 52 IBUs. Honey Hush is a blonde ale made with pilsner and Carahell malt with 6.7 percent ABV and 20 IBUs.
The fourth of the flagship brews is the Railyard Ghost, which is best for those new to craft beer and who want something close to an American light beer, checking in at 5.3 percent ABV. It is a wheat ale brewed with German pilsner, oats, coriander, orange peel and chamomile.
Those four brews, along with Ellis County Pride and soon to be four others, are now offered at local restaurants and pubs like Plaid Turtle Draft House, Cork & Keg, Big Al's Down the Hatch, and Hilltop Lanes in Waxahachie, as well as Fuzzy's Taco Shop in Midlothian and Waxahachie, Beef 'O' Brady's, Jimmy's Pizza Pasta and Pubs in Midlothian, Cedar Hill-based David's Seafood and Red Robin.
Railport may also soon be available to-go and direct from its taps, so long as the 86th Texas Legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott approved the TABC "Sunset Bill."
According to a report by the Austin American-Statesman, the Texas Senate approved the sunset bill late Wednesday night that would, courtesy of an amendment that was added without opposition, allow breweries in the state to sell canned or bottled beer for take-home consumption.
What that means is that, if the bill is signed, Railport would be able to can and sell up to one case per day per person — roughly 288 ounces or 24 12-ounce cans — directly to the consumer.
Richard expressed excitement about the possibility to sell directly to the consumer, which could happen as soon as Sept. 1 when most new laws go into effect. He noted Railport would likely sell three packs of 32-ounce cans.
Over the past year, Railport has seen an American Idol golden ticket winner and several dozen local musicians grace its indoor and outdoor stage.
In fact, it was there in late-November when Jade Flores, standing a few feet in front of a lighted Christmas tree of sorts constructed out of empty kegs, detailed to a small crowd how her struggles recovering from surgery affected her vocal range. She explained the process ultimately led to the 2014 Red Oak graduate being able to hit higher notes.
Flores then told the crowd — just after taking a swig of water and locally crafted Burleson's Honey, which is the key ingredient to Railport's No.1 seller, Honey Hush, and More Honey — that she "truly, truly believes in the power of music."
Railport has also hosted pet adoption events with the Ellis County SPCA, raised funds for breast cancer awareness, hosted "The Mother of All" crawfish boils alongside the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce and even offered an early-morning space for business professionals to collaborate (beer-free, of course).
A local cycling club, The BrewCrew, now meets in its parking lot every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for a cross-county ride and a happy couple has even tied the knot followed by a toast of Honey Hush.
For a business venture that once looked like it might never find a home outside of the Womacks' kitchen, Railport Brewing Company has certainly left its mark on Waxahachie over its first 365 days in business. Cheers to 365 more!