Veteran Mike Voeller spent 10 years in the Coast Guard, where he fed servicemen and women from land-based kitchens and from boat galleys.
While stationed in the Northeast, Voeller and his wife, Rachel, discovered the depth and breadth of the brewer’s art through hundreds of worldwide imports and home-grown U.S. beers at Jersey City, N.J.’s famed Zeppelin Hall.
That passion grew into one of creation and merged with Mike Voeller’s culinary skills to plant the seeds of building a brewery and a restaurant in Texas.
“With my culinary background, it was a natural for me to experiment with flavors,” Voeller says. “I like to make something that somebody has never had before, but they really like it.”
When the Voellers moved back to the area to raise their young family in Selma, they found a defunct bar, da Bunker, that backed up to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Universal City.
By late spring or early summer, and after substantial renovations, the space at 210 E. Aviation Blvd. will become the home of Gather Brewing Co.
While Gather Brewing will seek to satisfy a wide variety of tastes from the hop-forward West Coast IPAs to chocolate stouts, a good portion of the beers in rotation will be classic styles or interpretations of the classic Belgian-style ales, the couple’s favorite.
At a parking-lot tasting in late January, the couple and family members were testing out their versions of a milkshake IPA, a high-ABV imperial chocolate stout and two Belgian styles: a Belgian double IPA and a Belgian-style trippel. They also have a Belgian quad up their sleeves.
Even though they bought the building a year ago and brewing equipment is in storage, the rising cost of construction materials such as lumber and steel, and the pandemic have stalled finishing the building. Rachel Voeller says those factors brought in initial construction bids two to three times higher than they had budgeted for.
Fortunately, the building lies within an economic development zone for Universal City’s master-planned Aviation District. That gained them a grant to help pay for the building renovations.
Mike Voeller says the city’s Economic Development Council increased the grant amount after circumstances changed to make the project more expensive.
After three free tastings in recent months, Rachel Voeller says the feedback has been “nothing but good.”
A fourth tasting is in the works for later in February and will show off Mike Voeller’s culinary chops in the form of fusion Korean tacos to accompany several more test batches of beers.
Keep an eye on their Facebook page for that announcement. Find them at www.facebook.com/gatherbrewingcompany/.
Travis E. Poling has written about beer and business issues in the San Antonio area and across Texas for more than three decades. He is the co-author of two books on Texas beer, including “San Antonio Beer: Alamo City History by the Pint.”