Entrepreneurial Graduates Tap into Growing Craft Beer Industry

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt of “Brew Masters,” an article in the latest edition of UT Dallas Magazine.

UT Dallas Alumni, Brew Masters

During Homecoming 2014, alumni gathered at Craft and Growler for a beer tasting that featured beer and cider from alumni-owned breweries. From left: Craft and Growler owner Kevin Afghani BA'01, Joel Malone BS'08, MS'11, MBA'11 of Bishop Cider Company, David Wedemeier BS'02, MBA'05 of Martin House Brewing Company, Michael Peticolas BA'95 of Peticolas Brewing Company and Brad Perkinson BS'08, MS'09 of FireWheel Brewing Company.

UT Dallas alumni are helping lead an explosion of craft beer breweries throughout North Texas.

From taprooms to a cidery to a beer filling station, these entrepreneurial graduates left behind careers in law and finance to build businesses in hot spots like Dallas' Bishop Arts and Deep Ellum districts, as well as downtown Fort Worth. 

Along the way, they’ve collected national beer awards, patented new tap systems and used crowdfunding to market their ventures. And they’re in good company. Texas now has the eighth-largest number of craft breweries in the nation. 

These alumni are proof that these days, brewing takes brains. 

Michael Peticolas

Michael Peticolas BA'95

Michael Peticolas BA’95
Peticolas Brewing Company 

When Michael, 44, isn’t busy picking up national awards, he’s happy to talk about his winning brews like Velvet Hammer. “It’s smooth as velvet, but it hits you like a hammer,” said Michael. “I’m all about balance. I think beer should be balanced.” 

His customers agree with this philosophy, quadrupling orders in the three years since Michael and his wife, Melissa, opened up shop in 2011. 

Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in government from the University, attended law school and opened his own law firm. As hobbyist homebrewers, he and Melissa received an offer to invest in a brewery startup, and instead, decided to run a brewery themselves.

The self-described labor of love is “exhausting and a blast to run,” said Michael. “But when people come up to me and say, ‘That’s my favorite’ beer,’ it’s total satisfaction.” 
Best seller: Velvet Hammer

Brad Perkinson

Brad Perkinson BS'08, MS'09

Brad Perkinson BS’08, MS’09
FireWheel Brewing Company 

Somewhere after being laid off as a financial analyst and a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, in 2009, Brad, 29, found love — in homebrewing. With a homebrew kit and a little practice, he was whipping up 5-gallon batches from the comfort of his couch. From there, he said it was a short leap to start FireWheel. 

What Brad loves about the job is simple. “At the end of the day, I don’t have a spreadsheet with numbers, I’ve got something you can drink and enjoy,” he said. “It’s having a sense of accomplishment in a glass.” 

Since Brad started out in 2012, he’s hired two employees and expanded from a single 200-gallon fermentation tank to enough tanks to accommodate up to 5,000 gallons. 

Brad always keeps lessons learned in his UTD finance and business classes close at hand. “Everything is about money,” he said. “I’ve gotta run a business before I can brew beer.”
Best seller: Strawberry IPA 

Martin House founders Cody Martin and David Wedemeier

Martin House founders Cody Martin (left) and Dave Wedemeier BS'02, MBA'05.

David Wedemeier BS’02, MBA’05
Martin House Brewing Company 

David, 36, met Cody Martin at UT Dallas when they were both working on their bachelor’s degrees. They got to know each other as fraternity brothers, and discovered a mutual appreciation for beer. 

After graduation, David dipped his toe in telecommunications while Cody pursued a career in engineering, but soon afterward they both abandoned the corporate world and created Martin House, which overlooks downtown Fort Worth. 

David’s experience and MBA keep him entrenched in the business side of making beer. He manages the sales, accounting and marketing for the company, or “anything that’s not brewing the beer,” he explained. “Controlling your own destiny is awesome but it’s exhausting.”
Best Seller: Day Break 

Joel Malone

Joel Malone BS'08, MS'11, MBA'11

Joel Malone BS’08, MS’11, MBA’11
Bishop Cider Company 

Joel, 27, discovered hard cider through his wife, Laura, a devotee of the drink made from pressed apples. Together they brewed ciders at home, and then decided to create Bishop Cider. They mounted a crowdfunding campaign through the online funding platform Kickstarter and, after a year, raised $20,000 to spread the word about Dallas’ first cidery. 

Joel said they chose the popular Bishop Arts District because “it’s built around the appreciation of traditional arts and culinary arts, and Bishop Cider is infused with the same.” 

Joel loves that in the world of craft brews, ciders stand out. At the beer purveyor Craft and Growler, owned by fellow alumnus Kevin Afghani BA’01, “there are 42 taps on the menu board and I’m the only cider. That’s how it is everywhere.” 
Best seller: Suicider 

Kevin Afghani

Kevin Afghani BA'01

Kevin Afghani BA’01
Craft and Growler, Beer Filling Station 

Kevin, 35, and his wife, Cathrine Kinslow, were working as patent attorneys when they decided to swap their legal careers for something new. It was around this time they had invested in Deep Ellum Brewing Company and were getting more interested in beer. 

When it came time to choose a location for Craft and Growler, Kevin drew on his days at the University when he’d drive to Deep Ellum to what was then known as the New Amsterdam for coffee and studying. 

Craft and Growler specializes in providing local and regional microbrews that are not bottled. Patrons also love to peruse the bar’s vast selection of growlers — large bottles used to store fresh poured beer. 

These days Kevin is still putting his physics degree to work. He developed and patented the fluid dynamics that go into the bar’s tap system. “I’m constantly learning about how to run a business, from managing to innovating to marketing.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

Tagged: EPPS SOM