Few know the importance of good chemistry the way horned frog alumni Stuart and Allyssa Maples do. The couple — who bonded during their studies at TCU’s Neely School of Business — plan to combine Allyssa’s marketing knowledge and Stuart’s finance and beer-making expertise to launch Maple Branch Craft Brewery in Fort Worth’s Foundry District in the spring. The brewery’s 24 taps promise to showcase the award-winning homebrews that Stuart has spent roughly six years perfecting.
Stuart dove headfirst into beer making during college, choosing to begin by mastering all-grain brewing, a process in which a brewer steeps crushed malted grain in hot water for roughly an hour to extract sugars. The brewer must then pour even hotter water over the grain, creating a sugar-and-water mixture called wort. It’s a method that all established breweries use, but many novice homebrewers shy away from. “A lot of people start with extract,” says Stuart, referring to a commercially available malt extract used as a simplifying alternative. “I wanted to do all-grain brewing because, from the get-go, I wanted full control of every aspect of the process. Extract gives you premade wort,” says Stuart. “So, all those steps are skipped—but you lose flavor-control and creativity.”
Stuart has won over 40 awards for his home-brewed stouts, German brews, IPAs, and barley wines, and credits his success in part to the carefully curated water profile in each beer. “We have [reverse osmosis] water for every beer,” says Stuart. As a completely pure brewing base — it’s essentially water devoid of any mineral content — this provides Stuart an empty canvas to add elements, such as calcium or sulfates, that will accentuate the flavors in each beer style and balance pH levels. It also eliminates the need to offset any impurities present in city water — bicarbonates, for example, can detract from the complex flavor profiles characteristic of more difficult brews. “The pH of the mash directly affects the flavor of the beer,” Stuart says. “Starting with [reverse osmosis] water not only gives us full control, but, for some of the harder styles, we don’t have to add as much to the beer to try to change [the water profile].”
The Maples, for whom this is a first business venture, hope to include some of Stuart’s more advanced brews, including German smoked beers and strong lagers, among the brewery’s rotating taps. “We really like to experiment and always have different styles,” says Stuart. “We hope that if someone came in every week, there would be a different beer on tap for them.” Maple Branch Craft’s menu will be somewhat iconoclastic: it will consistently carry core beer styles — including IPAs, imperial stouts, and pilsners — and then adapt and tweak flavors within those styles. Remaining taps will eventually house cider and wine sourced from the Fort Worth area.
Maple Branch Craft’s 14,000 square-foot footprint will include both indoor seating and an expansive biergarten. “We are excited for the whole [space],” says Allyssa, “But the biergarten is really our passion project.” The couple plans to embellish with trees and a large fountain — its design will feature water cascading out of beer taps — in the garden, creating a natural aesthetic that will carry over into the interior of the brewery. The indoor space will feature both bench and table seating as well as a tree that will be planted below the floorboards and grow through the brewery. Sit and sip while catching a TCU game, or pick up a growler, keg, or crowler (32 oz. cans that can be filled, sealed, and taken to go) during a spring day out and about in Fort Worth.