In early March, Red Horn Coffee House and Brewing threw its five-year anniversary party and began to plan the announcement, a long time coming, of its upcoming second location. The four co-owners had finally found the space they’d been looking for to expand the brand, only a few miles from the current Cedar Park pub. It was almost double the size and would allow them to increase beer capacity significantly.
But then, of course, the pandemic hit.
By mid-March, the four Red Horn partners – Jon Lamb, Chad Misner, Zack Gardner, and Marco Leal – were scrambling just to keep their current location afloat, amid a countywide shutdown. Misner, who along with Lamb is a co-founder of the business, said their entire focus became developing contingency plans for any scenario. The expansion would be shelved for another eight months.
“In the three-week window of our anniversary party, things happened fast,” he said. “We didn’t really know what was going to happen, just that things were changing. So we started putting a plan in place for any situation – what if it gets bad, what if it doesn’t get bad, what if an employee gets sick, all these variables. We had 2 ½ hours’ notice from a Williamson County judge telling us we had to shift our model. We couldn’t even have customers dining outside for a time.”
After several tumultuous months, though, the small brewpub and coffee shop is stable again. Having that security, the Red Horn owners realized it was time to revive construction plans for the second location they’ve secured in a multi-use building near the H-E-B Center.
This weekend, the Red Horn Roastery & Brewery was announced via a celebratory video on the brewpub’s social media channels. It’ll be located at 1615 Scottsdale Dr., Building 1, Suite 100, in Leander, with an expected opening sometime early in the spring next year.
The 8,200 sq. ft. space is an empty shell that Red Horn will build out to have “more of a brewery taproom feel than the current spot, but still with a coffee program and a food concept,” Misner said.
He and the other owners don’t want to share too much about the food offerings just yet – though they will say the new space will have a full kitchen and a full restaurant menu, he said, with tacos as the likely focus. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be available seven days a week. (The current Red Horn location has more limited wares in the form of salads, sandwiches, and Antonelli’s cheese boards.)
The coffee roasting program – headed by Leal, the director of coffee – moves to the Leander location, where Red Horn will add wholesale accounts and a subscription coffee program.
Beer production will be at both locations, with Gardner, the director of brewing, overseeing a small team of brewers. He’s gotten creative over the past five years increasing the amount of beer made in cramped quarters of about 500 sq. ft. Space constraints won’t be a problem going forward: About 3,000 sq. ft. in the new brewpub will be available for beer production, potentially quadrupling capacity, and allowing for differing tap lists.
“Zack’s going to have a playground,” Misner said in March, the first time we talked about Red Horn’s expansion. “Our plan is to bring in a 15-barrel brewhouse. Right now, we brew on a seven-barrel system. Maybe bring in some horizontal lagering tanks. We’ll start packaging more as well. We’ll have plenty of space to do everything we want to do.”
They know adding a second location only four miles from the original might seem like a strange move. But it allows them to become more deeply embedded in the Cedar Park community and offers another option for residents who don’t want to travel far to visit their neighborhood pub. In that way, the owners believe, Red Horn will be able to tap into a whole new market. (The upcoming location has a Leander address but is under Cedar Park jurisdiction, as it’s right on the border between both Central Texas towns.)
Plus, both Red Horn spots are going to have distinct identities from each other.
“If you wanted to come here on Monday, have different beers, a different experience, and then go right down the road on Tuesday to change up your environment, you can do that,” Lamb said.
Another benefit of the new brewpub is its neighbors. When it opens next year, the Red Horn Roastery & Brewery will be in the same complex as the Crossover, a massive sports and recreation venue from the owner of Chaparral Ice. It’s got an indoor soccer field, a couple of ice-skating rinks and other attractions that Misner predicts will bring a steady stream of customers to Red Horn – thirsty athletes and parents waiting for their kids, for example.
The four owners were excited when we met in March to talk about the expansion. It had been a long time coming. Construction was going to start in June. When the pandemic shut the country down in the springtime, however, they began fighting for the life of the business they already had. Revenue will be down significantly this year, Misner said in a phone call recently, but he’s still hopeful about the direction of the Red Horn brand.
“The community is rallying around small businesses and helping to keep us going,” he said. “That’s why we’re optimistic about the expansion. Who knows what hindsight is going to be telling us with expanding during a pandemic, but we’ve been preparing this move for over 3 years. We’re ready to move forward, cautiously.”