Oh happy day. On Wednesday we heard the news that our favorite beer nerd, Kevin Floyd, was expecting. No, he's not having a baby. He's opening The Hay Merchant, a new beer bar with Anvil Bar & Refuge co-owner Bobby Heugel, and yesterday we had the opportunity to talk with him it.
The Hay Merchant will be Floyd's baby, albeit metaphorically. He will become the managing partner of the new location, leaving Heugel to oversee Anvil. "This is an opportunity to put all of my knowledge about craft beer, beer selection, draft technology, and distribution to work." And as anyone who's attended one of Floyd's beer classes or beer dinners, or just hung out at Anvil on a weeknight can attest - the man knows a (whole freaking) lot about beer.
While opening another bar was something that Floyd and Heugel had been planning for some time, it wasn't until eight or nine months ago that they began actively scouting out a location. They were actually in the middle of lease negotiations with another space when the owners of Chances began putting out feelers to gauge interest in the property. It was the perfect place for their new endeavor.
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"The underlying narrative is just as important to us as the final product. We wanted to find a building with a soul," Floyd says. The location at 1100 Westheimer had the history they were looking for, having been home to a Mexican restaurant, Charlie's Coffee, and most recently the legendary lesbian bar. The bar's namesake is steeped in history as well. The Hay Merchant is a nod to Mitchell Louis Westheimer (for whom the road is named), reputed to have done business by trading in hay. He sold grain to Houston; they're selling grain back to Houstonians--in the form of beer.
Floyd hopes that the new bar, in partnership with other local craft beer havens like the Petrol Station, will work to increase local buying power in market. "At Anvil, there wasn't a lot of storage space, which limited me to buying a single unit at a time," a problem with many distributors. The new location will include multiple cooling zones and a cellar. "We anticipate having around 80 different beers on tap - but we could have as few as 60," Floyd says, and goes on to explain that he'd rather have the best beers on tap than the most.
In addition to increased storage capability, The Hay Merchant will have a full working kitchen (as opposed to the kitchen at Anvil, which Floyd describes as "a closet.") This will allow them to feature a "stepped up menu" and beer dinners, hopefully on par with those experienced last fall during Houston Beer Week. And if you're looking for a stiff mixed cocktail, better stick to Anvil. The Hay Merchant will only be licensed to sell wine and beer, an aspect the owners felt would preserve the purity of the concept.
Construction to strip down Chances to its bare architectural bones will begin soon. Floyd tells us that what they find beneath will dictate the look and feel of The Hay Merchant, but it is the goal of both partners to create a spot that "will be to craft beer what Anvil is to cocktails." We can only hope. And judging what we've seen of Floyd and Huegel's dedication to their craft, Houston beer enthusiasts are in for a real treat.