A lot had to happen before Dorćol Distilling + Brewing Co. became the fastest-growing craft brewery in Texas earlier this spring.
Namely, our brewer and owner Randy Ward, had to fall in love with beer, and for that story, we have to hop onto the way-back machine and take a trip to the early 90s.
A fresh graduate of Angelo State at the time, Randy was working for Amoco Oil in Houston, where he lived with his better half Stephanie. While attending church in H-town, Randy met a dude who made his own beer at home, and his curiosity was piqued.
“I had time. I was working 7:30 to 4:30 every day and was bored with that,” Randy said.
That Christmas, Stephanie gifted Randy his own rudimentary home brew kit complete with a 5-gallon bucket and a bottle capper from the only homebrew store in the state at the time. Randy started brewing using beer kits, but eventually graduated to an all-grain system. They eventually moved to Alvin, where Randy put together a decent homebrew operation, and formulated a porter recipe we currently call the HighWheel Porter. He started competing in homebrew competitions — and winning. He took home a Best in Show for his American pilsner in Clear Lake’s Lunar Rendezbrew Homebrew Competition.
But life happens. Son Zach was born in ‘96, Steph started her Ph.D. program at the University of Houston, and Randy started an MBA tract in 1997 at Rice University.
“Homebrewing was set on the back burner,” Randy said.
When laws began to change — allowing brewpubs to open — Randy considered leaving oil and gas to pursue his dreams of opening a brewery of his own.
Because of his relationships within Rice, Randy was able to sit down with another local brewer in the early 2000s. Brock Wagner, one of the founders of Saint Arnold, dissuaded that effort, for the best.
“It turned out to be fortuitous. My career blossomed…and every brewery that opened within a 5-year period of that time went out of business,” Randy said. At the time, legislation had caps on beer, food, and distribution made it difficult for small Texas breweries to succeed.
After 20 years in oil and gas, and having relocated to San Antonio for Stephanie’s work at St. Mary’s University, Randy still had the brewing bug. With retirement in sight, Randy dusted off the brewery idea.
“Laws had changed. It was more favorable. I went out and bought more equipment and converted part of our three-car garage in Fair Oaks into a legitimate brew system to see if I could brew quasi-commercially, and I could,” said Randy.
He hopped around the country gaining more knowledge, first at the Siebel Institute of Technology, then at breweries in Maine and California.
He decided to shoot his shot and start looking for commercial real estate, while also being a part of the first beverage cohort through Launch SA’s Break, Fast & Launch program. Each group ends in a show and tell where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and companies to would-be investors. It was at the end of the first food cohort, where Randy met Boyan and Chris.
And the rest is history…