3 guys, 1 taproom: Local Group Brewing coming to Houston's Near Northside

By Megan Kennedy - Digital News Editor
Carla Gomez/Pop Ratio

L-R James "Huggy Bear" Wolfe, Todd Donewar, Michael Steeves

HOUSTON - After spending seven years in the energy industry and sharing a passion for craft beers, two friends teamed up to make their passion a reality.

Local Group Brewing, started by Todd Donewar, Michael Steeves and James “Huggy Bear” Wolfe, is slated to open in late 2019 in Houston's Near Northside.

Donewar and Steeves, still employed by BP, dreamed up the idea for a brewery, but knew they were missing a head brewer. Then came Huggy Bear.

The only thing missing now? A chef. The hiring process is still underway, though they said they are no longer accepting applications.

Location, location, location 

The brewery will be located at 1504 Chapman St. in Hardy Yards -- not far from Saint Arnold's.

The building, formerly the Acme Parrern Works, will feature a more than 7,500-square-foot brewpub, featuring more than 20 tapped beers, as well as a kitchen, churning out dishes that compliment Huggy's beers.

Construction is well underway. HVAC, plumbing and other interior work was just completed, as well as garage doors that will open to a view of Houston's city skyline. 

The brewery will be pet-and kid-friendly.



Now, onto the good stuff -- the beer

The brewery will start out with eight brewing tanks, and will to expand from there, Huggy said. He has already created 86 test batches and continues to narrow down the recipes for great beer. 

He said he's working on some staple recipes such as New England IPAs, but plans to branch out with kettle sours and stouts. Huggy said he likes to experiment with fruits and spices to make things interesting.

The guys have also begun collaborating with existing brewpubs such as Holler Brewing Co., Great Heights Brewing Company and No Label Brewing Company.



What's in a name?

Steeves and Donewar are fans of space and they landed on the name of the brewpub after “reflecting on everything that craft beer is all about – supporting local businesses, having fun and building community,” Steeves said in a news release. “We will focus on brewing beer for what is a small area in the grand scheme of the universe, and we will do that by supporting local at every opportunity we have. At the same time, the brewpub, our city, state, country, earth, the solar system, the Milky Way and so on, are all a part of the Local Group of galaxies, and there’s an interesting dichotomy there with investing locally while being situated in this massive universe.”

Meet the guys

Carla Gomez/Pop Ratio

Michael Steeves - Co-founder with Local Group Brewing

Michael Steeves, Co-Founder - Originally from Canada, Steeves has traveled all over the world and has held interesting career titles. He worked driving semitrailers to pay for his education. Then, he began working in finance. His career took him to 29 countries before calling Houston home in 2013.

Carla Gomez/Pop Ratio

James "Huggy Bear" Wolfe - Head brewer with Local Group Brewing

James "Huggy Bear" Wolfe, Co-Founder and Head Brewer - A former Boeing contractor, Huggy Bear has worked on NASA's International Space Station and space shuttle. Though he's from Phoenix, he has since made Houston his home. After working in the aerospace industry for nearly 10 years, he is now head brewer at Local Group. 

Carla Gomez/Pop Ratio

Todd Donewar - Co-founder with Local Group Brewing

Todd Donewar, Co-Founder - Though a University of Houston graduate, Donewar is originally from New Orleans. He loves and supports craft beer so much that he only buys independently brewed beer. 

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