Article by Jim Baker | Photographs by David Weaver
A surprise awaits those who venture into the industrial park on Metric Boulevard in North Austin: a warehouse filled with gleaming, silver vats producing a delicious, golden beverage. It’s the 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative, the newest brewer on the local scene.
4th Tap was conceived four years ago when six like-minded friends decided they wanted to take their love of craft beer to a more personal level. One of the founders, John Stecker, committed to the project full time two years ago.
The tap room had its official opening on November 7 of this year and 4th Tap’s three main beer varieties are now available on the shelves of such retailers as Whole Foods, HEB and Central Market, Wheatsville Food Co-op and the Sunrise Mini Mart.
"Brewing is a meeting of art and science, that's what appeals to me about it," said co-founder John Stecker.
As a cooperative, 4th Tap is 100 percent worker owned; the first such brewery in the state of Texas. The process begins with a year-long apprenticeship during which new workers learn all aspects of the business. At the end of the year, they can buy in as owners. One of those who has signed on is Laura Christie, who left her job in IT sales to join the 4th Tap team.
“It’s exciting to be involved in a local business that is a co-op,” she said. With a degree in entrepreneurship, she felt that this new venture was more in line with her interests. So, three months into her tenure, she works as an office assistant and as a server in the tap room, with an eye to the future.
Attracting motivated personnel like Christie is part of the 4th Tap plan. Because of the co-op concept, Stecker has been able to surround himself with other dedicated beer craftspeople. 4th Tap already has five full-time and four part-time workers.
“We have a triple bottom line,” said Stecker, “People, planet and business. Our core value is to succeed at all three.”
But it also has to be about the beer, and Stecker, who has a Master’s degree in Cell Biology from Texas State University, has dedicated himself to creating what he calls, “a unique but accessible and drinkable” product. Getting the right flavoring is paramount. 4th Tap’s IPA is infused with real Texas grapefruit and its wheat beer is flavored with tamarind.
“Why is nobody else using tamarind?” wondered Stecker. “It’s delicious!”
For a venture as unique as a cooperatively owned brewery, 4th Tap turned to a bank that understands unique entrepreneurial undertakings: Amplify Credit Union.
“Amplify is the reason we exist,” said Stecker. “They know how to engage the cooperative community. We are not your typical LLC, but they helped us navigate the process of getting an SBA loan.”
As 4th Tap looks to move into other major Texas markets, they know they can rely on Amplify Credit Union to help make that happen.
4th Tap Brewing Cooperative
10615 Metric Blvd.