BEHIND THE BREWERY
Hello! My name is Andy Dunn. My wife, Angie, and I would like to introduce you to the Walking Stick Brewing Company and our tap room and beer garden we lovingly call The Stick. Five years ago, while playing volleyball at the CrowBar in Garden Oaks, we noticed an old industrial building with a sign, “For Sale by Owner” across the street.
We thought, let’s buy it!! We can take something with a distressed, industrial vibe and turn it into something beautiful. Angie is a native Houstonian and I grew up in Colorado. We decided to create a business that incorporates “Distressed Houston Industrial” with “Alpine Colorado”. Other than that, we had no idea what we wanted……
Five years later, we have a family friendly craft brewery, tap room and two beer gardens that serve the neighborhoods of Garden Oaks and Oak Forest.
Our location spans an entire block which gives us natural beer gardens on both sides of our tap room. The south side of the property was as tired and worn as the north side.
We loved the distressed buildings and planned to preserve as much of that look as possible. Once we settled on developing a craft brewery, we realized we needed a modern building for the brewery itself and we said goodbye to the smaller tin shack that was standing on the south side of the lot and built a new building for the brewery in its place.
The beer garden adjacent to the brewery building on the south side is ideally suited for celebratory events (weddings, showers, birthdays etc).
Our tap room leverages a metal building initially built to provide cleaning services for tents and parachutes. It was then used as a “welders shack” for over 30 years.
We found it dark, dank and dusty. A perfect palette for our planned look and feel. The high ceilings and metal framing provided ample room for large windows making our final design light and airy. Plenty of room for suspended walking sticks and our “floating alpine forests” that change with the seasons.
The brewery itself has a 10-barrel brew house built by Portland Kettle Works. They specialize in 3-30 barrel systems manufactured entirely in the US by their fabricators in Portland Oregon. Currently, we have enough fermentation and storage capability to produce 2,000 barrels per year.
I’m passionate about using US-based fabricators for many reasons, not the least of which is the history of our brewery location. I bought the property located at 956 Judiway in Houston from Milton Tom, an 85-year-old fabricator who used the location as his production site for over 30 years. His wife finally convinced him to retire in 2015. At the time, Milton still maintained perfect vision, never using any sort of eyeglasses (I still marvel at that!!). It seems that he was a local legend, based on his enigmatic personality and the quality of his work. Two years after he has retired, folks still stop by asking about him. We have preserved Milton’s legacy by including many of his creations as part of the brewery’s personality.
Why did I decide to open a brewery? Good question. The short answer is that I would have loved to open an oil refinery if producing refined products had a “craft” dimension to it; sadly, it doesn’t. It is simply impossible to be a “craft refiner”, but can you imagine the possibilities? If you dwell on it long enough, you realize that the physical process of brewing beer and refining oil are not all that different: you begin with a number of inputs, mix them together, alter their molecular structure with certain additives at different temperatures, and produce something else. It requires an impressive suite of tanks, pipes, hoses and mechanical equipment, a keen knowledge of science, math and engineering and success is born only from careful attention to process optimization.
At this point, one might assume that I am a petroleum engineer; I am not. I do, however, have an unusual level of envy for someone with that knowledge set. My professional history has centered on finance, accounting, and energy. I “cut my teeth” dealing with market, credit and operational risks embedded in the large investment banks located in London while working at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. That experience led me to advising energy companies in Houston on the same, relevant issues. As it turns out, you can apply complex valuation theories born on Wall Street to energy assets owned in the heart of Texas. As a result, I found myself working in Houston and fell in love with the city and its people. In all, I spent over 25 years in consulting, the last eight at Deloitte as a Partner in their Advisory practice. My time in London also introduced me to the traditional Pub and British beer styles that we offer at our brewery.
I grew up in Colorado where we enjoy the full range of outdoor mountain activities. There are 58 mountains in Colorado that are over 14,000 feet in elevation (known as “14ers”) and each summer, we make it a goal to bring our Texas friends to the mountains to climb one of them. It is such a unique experience that, while difficult, is certainly possible to achieve if you are active and ambitious. We love this attribute of our Rocky Mountains and want to bring a little of that love back to Houston with us. In fact, our beer styles and names are also derived from the Rockies as each beer is named after a 14er. For instance, the “Conundrum Grapefruit IPA” is named after Conundrum Peak (elevation 14,047 feet) and the “Massive Brown Porter” derives its name from Mount Massive (elevation 14,429 feet).
One other important fundamental attribute of our brewery. We are family friendly. Some might say out of necessity….. I have six kids!!! Truth be told, Hayley, Drew and Ethan are grown and off pursuing their own lives. However, Angie and I have three beautiful children under the age of three and we want them to grow up in a family friendly environment.
Andy and Angie at the Summit of Mt. Democrat in the Fall of 2015
Andy and Angie with Dylan (strawberry), Emerson (milk), and Oliver (cookie) in October 2020