The Lone Star Brewery has sat vacant for nearly 20 years on the banks of the San Antonio River just south of downtown. The abandoned structure is in need of a paint job and the lawn, a weed whacker, but Aqualand Development saw beyond the exterior appearance and imagined a mixed-use development, not unlike what the Pearl has become along the Broadway Corridor.
But Aqualand Development’s President Mark Smith was not the only one who saw potential at the Lone Star Brewery. So did Matthew Harber when he was scouring the downtown area for a place to host the Untapped Festival, a Texas craft beer and music festival that is making its way to San Antonio on Saturday, Nov. 21.
Harber, one of the founders of the Untapped Festival, started the event in Dallas in 2012. Since then, the festival has grown to include Houston, Fort Worth, Austin, and now San Antonio. Harber, along with co-founder Corey Pond and Spune Productions, hosted the festival in Austin for the first time this year at Carson Creek Ranch on the outskirts of the city. But Harber said he prefers the festival to have “the backdrop of downtown” which spurred him to search in and around downtown San Antonio.
Before deciding on the Lone Star Brewery, Harber pinpointed Roosevelt Park for the festival’s location. After taking notice of the industrial, spacious property across the river from the park, he changed his mind. Lone Star Brewery would work just fine.
“It’s a beautiful space with the large trees,” he said, adding that the brewery’s “big smoke stacks” were the first structure to catch his eye when walking through Roosevelt Park.
When Harber caught wind that Aqualand Development had purchased the brewery, he reached out to the firm for permission to host the Untapped Festival on the land.
Aqualand Development purchased 34 acres of the 60-acre Lone Star property in May with plans to renovate the old brewery and potentially turn it into the jewel of the Southtown neighborhood.
Smith said he plans to recreate the brewery’s vibrant past and bring it back to life.
“It was a place where everybody met and toured the brewery and had a good time, so I really like bringing the Texas heritage back to what it is, because we’re losing that, and to me that’s kind of important, I think everybody in San Antonio wants that,” Smith said during a KSAT 12 interview.
The festival, which is expected to attract 5-6,000 people, will bring the property that has sat dormant for nearly two decades back to life, at least for a day. Harber said Aqualand Development sees the project as “a great marketing tool to get people back to the location.”
“(The festival) will get people used to going back there again … and will be a natural extension because people will be in the habit of going,” Harber said.
The Untapped Festival isn’t the first one to grace the lawn of the Lone Star property this year. On Aug. 8 the site hosted the Lone Star Beer Heritage Festival, a food and music festival that included the Austin-based psych-rock band The Black Angels.
Harber is not trying to create a massive festival like Austin City Limits. He wants to curate the event to mesh with “the cultural fabric” of San Antonio by hosting local bands and breweries alongside national and international acts. The festival will offer more than 200 unique craft beers from more than 50 breweries and host nine bands, including the Canadian indie-rock bands Metric and Tokyo Police Club, and local bands King Pelican and Los Callejeros De San Anto.
Busted Sandal Brewing Company Founder Mike DiCicco said a two-part beer and music festival will draw a different crowd than the one he’s used to serving.
“I’m assuming the crowd is going to be a little different with just as many people pulled in with interest for the bands and equally for the beer,” DiCicco said.
DiCicco said the types of people who listen to the “cutting-edge” bands playing during the festival are the types who drink craft beer instead of “your ordinary mega-mass-produced American lager-style beer,” adding that the festival will likely provide him the opportunity to tap into a new market.
According to Harber, festival culture is slowly changing throughout Texas, and although Austin is known for its festivals, other cities in Texas “want to have their fun too.”
“The state is growing up and the cities are becoming more diverse,” Harber said. “I think the demand is higher than it has been in the past.”
*Featured/top image: Mike Maloney pours craft beer into his growler. Photo by Scott Ball.