Singing the Brews
Story and photos by Meda Kessler
Collin Zreet, beer lover and businessman, still believes life’s a Funky Picnic despite the pandemic fallout
Start a brewery, they said. It’ll be fun.
This bit of sarcasm is brought to you by the year 2020. Open since late June of 2019 but on the verge of breaking even less than a year later — a pretty good track record for a small, independently owned business — Funky Picnic Brewery & Café hit the brick wall of the pandemic.
Collin Zreet is one of the owners/founders of FPB, a brewpub located off the growing Main Street corridor just south of downtown. Collin and wife Taylor, a social worker and Fort Worth native, make their home in Arlington Heights. Their updated bungalow was pretty much move-in ready when they bought it in June 2020 — a must on their checklist — and includes a spacious backyard for Rocco, their dog. The couple call themselves “quiet extroverts” and love the safe feel of their family-oriented neighborhood.
While Collin holds an engineering degree and works full time for Bell Helicopter, beer is his passion. He homebrewed while in school at the University of Texas at Austin. The first beer he brewed was an English IPA, and he earnestly pursued the science of making beer, even after graduation. (Collin went on to earn his MBA in entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Dallas.)
His love of yeast and hops along with spending time outdoors led to fortuitous friendships. “In 2010, I met Samantha Glenn while playing Frisbee,” Collin says of his brewery general manager and co-founder. Jenni Hanley and John Koch, also part of the founding team, opened up their garage for brewing experiments. The team entered homebrew competitions about every other weekend and won their fair share.
“About three years ago, Samantha mentioned she was ready to do something different, so she and I worked on a business plan for Funky Picnic.” The name, by the way, comes from their love of the outdoors and, of course, food.
Collin and Taylor, along with the rest of the management staff, are adventurous travelers. Collin’s idea of a successful trip includes pit stops at local breweries, of course. “Owning your own brewery is a great conversation starter, too,” notes Collin.
The team’s various day jobs — from engineering to advertising to production management — gave them the necessary skills to advance their hobby to a real business. Collin became a Certified Cicerone, the beer-world equivalent of a sommelier, in 2018. They secured investment money from family and friends, plus one “angel” donor who met them at a brewing competition and loved their product. And they hired a brewer and a chef who, like Collin, enjoys the art of pairing food with beer.
“We looked at a lot of locations in Fort Worth, but we needed something that had room for brewing equipment, a kitchen and a taproom,” says Collin. “We finally found an unfinished building on South Main Street that had tall ceilings.” Working with the building’s owners, who also happened to be design professionals, they turned the warehouse into a welcoming space complete with custom murals and lots of natural light.
That space is now slowly coming back to life after the taproom reopened for in-house dining May 29. “The first month we offered beer to go,” says Collin, “but it’s nice to have people back in the building. We were able to secure some loans that kept employees on staff. Even if there wasn’t much to do at the brewery, we had them read books and watch videos about beer and the industry to earn their hours.”
Beerwise, they started canning with the help of a fellow brewery in Dallas and now offer four-packs of Funny Accent ESB, an English-style ale, to go.
Beer names are pitched by the team and usually end up being about cats, favorite bands and songs or just something funny.
While Collin is back at Bell during the week, he can be found at Funky Picnic on the weekends working front of the house or wherever he’s needed. Looking ahead, he’s planning on more beer-pairing dinners and hoping to make up for lost business. “This was his dream when we met,” says Taylor, who admits she wasn’t much of a beer drinker but now has a fondness for stouts and porters.
“We’re lucky to have a strong team who can make decisions quickly. We’re always looking ahead,” says Collin. “ I think the smaller guys are more willing to innovate.”