By SHALYN MURPHY
Photo by DAVID VINCENT
When Eric Craver started brewing his own craft beer at age 19, little did he realize that he was actually brewin a future business. His love of beer also led him to find the love of his life, Marne, who he met in a bar.
“Beer has been part of our entire relationship,” Marne joked. “We met the good old-fashioned way—in a bar, got engaged during the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, an now have bet our future on beer. How great is that?”
Eric and Marne, who have been married six years now, officially opened Happy Basset Brewing Co. in 2016 at 6044 SW 29th St.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Eric said. “July 22,O. 2016 was the first day we sold beer.”
Happy Basset Brewing Co., named after their two Basset Hounds, Gracie and Freckles, was designed as a replica of Brew Nation. Eric, who is the brewmaster and recipe creator, went to all-grain brewing, which is th purest form of beer making and the method by which you can most greatl influence the outcome of the beer.
“All-grain brewing is like baking a cake from scratch versus using a premade cake kit,” Eric said. “I decide exactly what the beer is going to become, from color and aroma to flavor.”
The brewery invited the community to tasting parties and private events and hosted block parties to introduce the business and the beer. The response from the community was overwhelming, quickly establishing a regular clientele eager to see what new creations Eric brews up. Eric says with 30 to 40 different craft brews they switch out according to seasons and customer demand, Happy Basset always has 12 beers on tap.
“People want to support local and drink local,” Marne said. “They love to see our beer on tap in new locations.”
This growing business is actually a side gig for Eric and Marne who both still hold full-time jobs. Eric works with his father in their mechanical contracting business, and Marne works at Mars as a food scientist. This side gig, however, has grown into a thriving business that employs 14 people and whose beer is found on tap in almost 50 locations.
“We work around 80 hours a week on average,” Marne said. “This business doesn’t run itself.”
Happy Basset now plans to expand into a second 12,000 sq. ft. location that will not only offer more beer on tap, but that will also be available for event space. Eric and Marne hope to have the new site, which is located on South Burlingame close to Strathman Sales Co., operational by Spring 2019.
“I should have gotten more space initially because we have outgrown our current location,” Eric said. “But at the time I had to listen to my parents, who are our silent partners.”
“And his wife,” Marne added with a smile.
Eric hopes to eventually add a 30-barrel, four vessel brewing system in the new facility, which will give them the ability to can their beer, opening up a whole new market.
Craft breweries have been popping up all over Topeka in the past few years; however, Eric and Marne don’t see that as a hurdle, but rather an opportunity.
“The craft brewing community in Topeka is great,” Eric said. “We are all friends and we all help each other out.”
The local brewers meet once a month to talk about collaboration, trade ingredients and talk about how new legislation will affect the business. They also look at ways to create a vibrant brewing community that will attract people to Topeka.
“We knew we needed more fun things to do here,” Marne said. “We wanted to be part of making that happen. This is where we live. This is where we want to raise our kids.”
That sense of community involvement has played a large role in establishing Happy Basset Brewing as a thriving microbrewery. With Bingo every Sunday, trivia on Mondays, parking lot parties with food trucks and even a car show, Eric and Marne want to offer Topekans more than just great beer—they want to offer dog’s best friend—a community experience.