Legal Draft Beer Co.
500 E. Division St.
Legal Draft Beer Co. co-founder Greg McCarthy normally gives brewmaster Henryk Orlik all the space he needs when the German-born artisan turns out a new brew – creative liberties and all that — but McCarthy couldn’t help himself recently. He watched closely and learned.
“Orlik worked up a craft beer we dubbed Tart Feasor,” McCarthy said. “He fermented with champagne yeast, aged it in red wine barrels and then added sour cherry puree before we kegged it. It ended up with a lemony tartness, a wonderful beer, but it was such a shock to see it done so uniquely.”
McCarthy, 57, a self-described recovering trial lawyer and on-and-off-novelist-turned-craft-beer-aficionado, created Legal Draft two years ago with neighbor Curt Taylor, plus a silent investment group of 30 friends. They did it large, leasing what had been an empty 25,000-square-foot former Honda-Pontiac dealership building on East Division Street in Arlington’s downtown core. This also made them the anchor tenant for Urban Union, a major redevelopment project on what for years was a weary section of the old U.S. 80 Bankhead Highway.
Legal Draft quickly zoomed into the top 10 craft beer sellers in North Texas, this year corking about 11,000 barrels and still growing. McCarthy’s barrister background clearly influenced the names of the brewery’s mainstay offerings, ranging from Legal Blonde Lager and Hung Jury Hefeweizen to Presumed Innocent IPA and Chief Justice Stout. Somewhere there’s also a Rye Brought the Law, plus others. Even a non-alcoholic brew, naturally titled Moot Beer.
Though Legal Draft took off fast when, indeed, it did take off, the concept took almost 15 years to nurture. McCarthy and Taylor were hanging out with friends when the 2000s were still new, enjoying a frosty beer and discussing family, business and, McCarthy recalls, “Life its own self.’’
“Curt mused that the assembled group should open a hometown brewpub to serve friends and neighbors along with millions of tourists,” McCarthy recollects. “Everyone agreed, finished their beers, forgot about it and returned to making a living.”
McCarthy, however, found that despite trying to leave the idea, it wouldn’t leave him. Flash forward to 2015: McCarthy, Taylor and their friends were again enjoying a cold libation – a consistent theme – when McCarthy revealed that he planned to open a brewery in Arlington, so his hometown could partake of the growing craft beer revolution and participate in a downtown resurgence. And that he needed investors to make it happen.
“I thought in Texas there is opportunity, in North Texas there is opportunity, and in Arlington where I lived for 30 years it struck me that there were almost 400,000 people, two professional sports franchises – three now – a huge entertainment district and no craft beer brewer. I thought there was a hole that needed to be filled.”
“Curt simply couldn’t resist the possibilities,” McCarthy recalled. “He was in.”
The message and potential also resonated with a close-knit group of friendship-linked investors, despite McCarthy’s caution.
“I told them if they couldn’t afford to lose the money, don’t do it.”
The prudent advice proved unnecessary. Legal Draft boomed and the Arlington location has capacity to increase production to the company’s eventual goal – more than 50,000 barrels annually.
McCarthy and Taylor also wanted Legal Draft to be part of the community fabric, incorporating a 2,500-square-foot taproom space adjacent to an open-air, shaded beer garden. The expansive tap room and garden now hosts weddings, business sessions, reunions, Arlington on Tap happy hour lectures, yoga, live music and other ventures ranging from mini-concerts to dog adoptions – the beer garden patio being dog friendly.
McCarthy is also delighted that Legal Draft, Urban Union’s first tenant, has also served as a catalyst for new businesses all around it.
“There’ll be more,” he predicts. “Restaurants, offices, bars, music, and more. And we’ll be making a lot more great craft beer.”