A faded yellow warehouse in downtown Arlington will soon gleam with fresh dark-charcoal paint, and its business will be clearly marked in oversized white lettering: "Division Brewing."

A faded yellow warehouse in downtown Arlington will soon gleam with fresh dark-charcoal paint, and its business will be clearly marked in oversized white lettering: "Division Brewing."

But the interior, owner and craft-beer-maker Wade Wadlington says, will have the spirit of a church.

"Beer church," he explained. "There’s no regular bar atmosphere. It’s like a beer church, with a congregation of beer lovers."

When his home-brewing hobby completes its transition to professional business, Division Brewing will be the only locally owned microbrewery in Arlington.

But there’s still a lot of work to do before the grand opening, which the 47-year-old brewer hopes takes place this fall.

The 3,100-square-foot building that Wadlington and wife, Tami, are renting at 506 E. Main St. got a thorough cleaning out recently, and soon workers will begin sawing into the concrete floor to make way for plumbing.

Wade Wadlington, an information technology consultant, has a flexible schedule that will allow him to brew and manage. His wife will keep her bank job — for steady income and health benefits — and help at the brewery on weekends, she said.

She’s optimistic about the brewery’s future and anxious to get the brewery open. But success won’t be measured in dollars alone, she added.

"On the one hand, you want to do something that you love, and making beer is a fun hobby," Tami Wadlington said. "But the other part is we’ve gotten the opportunity to meet so many fun, cool people. That’s the part that makes it a lot more worth it."

A common interest

The couple came to that conclusion during their intensive field research, which has led them to many small breweries and, well, a number of beers.

"Every time I go, I meet new people," Wade Wadlington said. "And you already have a common interest — beer."

The Wadlingtons’ brewery is riding a craft-beer-brewing boom in recent years, fueled largely by 2013 state laws that relaxed restrictions on the distribution and sale of beers made by small breweries.

That has prompted many passionate home brewers, including the Wadlingtons, to try turning their hobby in to a business.

Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, an industry trade organization, has seen its membership increase from 42 small brewers in 2009 to more than 160 last year, including breweries in planning and construction stages.

Even before the new laws, small brewers were having a big effect on the state economy. They employed 1,244 workers, accounting for 51 percent of all Texas brewery jobs in 2011, even though craft beer sales were less than 1 percent of the total, according to the guild.

Small brewers also made a $2.3 billion economic impact in 2012, Vallhonrat said, citing industry studies. That economic impact in Texas was second only to California’s brewery contribution.

A different number

But Texas’s rank drops into the mid-30s when you recalculate the number in terms of dollars per drinking-age person.

Vallhonrat points out the unflattering number for a reason.

"There’s been a lot of explosive growth, so you hear people say the market has reached saturation," he said. "I don’t believe the Texas market is saturated. The reason I track those numbers is not to say we’re behind but that we have significant room for improvement."

Tastes for beer are certainly changing, said Barry Shlachter, a former longtime Star-Telegram journalist who wrote a beer column for seven years.

"Texas is a little bit late to the game. The beer culture here has been dominated by light beer," Shlachter said. "A lot of brew pubs and microbreweries have opened and closed. But Texans are getting a better beer palate and getting better beer."

One of the charms of the industry, though — the creative pursuit of new flavors — is also one of its drawbacks.

"The craft beer drinker is not loyal," Shlachter said. "They’re like butterflies — they go from brand to brand to brand."

At least two other businesses in Arlington make their own craft beer. BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, at 201 E. Interstate 20, is part of a chain that has a brewery in Temple, a manager said.

And don’t tell Schica Anderson, a manager at the 20-year-old Humperdinks, 700 Six Flags Drive, that her restaurant is not a microbrewery.

"That’s absolutely not true," she said. "In fact, we’re probably the original brewery in Arlington."

Wadlington has refined his claim to include "only locally owned" microbrewery in Arlington.

He said that initially he’ll produce about 1,000 barrels —31,000 gallons — of beer at a yearly rate. That small number actually makes the business more of a "nanobrewery" he said.

His journey to the brink of brewery ownership was an improbable one. For starters, he came from a family that didn’t drink.

"It was for religious reasons, and I respected that a lot," he said. "It was a negative thing for them while I was growing up."

A beer epiphany

Perhaps even more important was his disappointment when he first started trying beers. They were the dominant brands — Budweiser, Miller and Coors, among the family of lager brews. They were ubiquitous, and he hated the taste. But that seemed to be all that his friends and, for that matter, society — according to the TV ads — wanted to drink.

"I would have taken a shot of bourbon before I’d have a beer," he said.

Then, in his mid-20s, he happened upon a wheat beer called Celis White, made by a Belgian, after he moved to Texas. And he found it at a local store. It became his "gateway beer," introducing him to a world of craft beer hiding in plain sight.

He started making it at home, experimenting like a restaurant chef. He said he’ll be serving variety of ales, focusing mostly on his favorite style, known as India pale ales, which include his own two self-made favorites — FrankenFroth and Tres Craneo.

He also will brew stouts, porters, blond ale and other styles. Most will have interesting names, like a blond ale called Clifton Clowers, the song about a heartaching would-be suitor of the daughter of a dangerously protective man.

The Wadlingtons’ co-brewer is Sean Cooley, whom he met through, who else, a home brewer. Cooley, 32, a husband, father and part-time barista at Starbucks, said he has honed his skills and narrowed his repertoire to prepare for his new assignment.

"Before being a professional brewer was an option, I never brewed the same thing twice," he said. "But I hope we can take that spirit of home brewing to Division."

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7186

Twitter: @Kaddmann_ST


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