A Chat with Rick & Roman from Lone Star Taps and Caps
by Sheldon Johns
After an almost 7 year tour of Denton, the best little beer town in North Texas, I set sail for Frisco with my wife (at the time girlfriend) who had just recently been hired to start her new teaching career. Although I was also excited for a change of scenery and a shorter drive to my office, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the beer scene in what appeared to be a ho-hum bland suburbia blah fest. To complicate the matter, I was leaving behind a town that I had matured from a raggedy teenager to a young adult in. A town where I met a good family friend that introduced me to craft beer during my evenings and nights on Fry Street patios, and then went on to make my habit even worse by opening two famous patio bars near the downtown square, with endless tap lists. My first few months in Frisco saw a lot of driving back and forth to Denton to see missed family and friends, and to get my hands on a few pints of great beer. Something I felt this side of town was severely lacking.
Fast forward a few months — I heard through the grapevine of an oasis in the middle of the rather dry craft beer dessert of Frisco. It was being built right down the street in eastern Lewisville. It’s name? Lonestar Taps and Caps. I promptly gathered up my growler and hopped in the truck to check out this place that couldn’t possibly meet my lofty standards of what a craft beer bar is supposed to be. As soon as I walked through the door, I was greeted by a friendly, knowledgeable staff and within a few minutes I knew this place was special.
On my second or third visit to Taps and Caps, I met Rick Ali, Owner/Curator/Beer Savant. Rick immediately recognized my Oak Street Drafthouse t-shirt and the rest is history. Having spent at least one evening a week in his establishment for a little over a year now, we’ve had several discussions on the craft beer landscape of DFW and the exploding market it has turned into. Not long after I met Rick, I also met Steven Roman (or Roman, for short) who now helps manage both the Lewisville and Denton Taps and Caps locations. Roman and I quickly became friends after bonding while waiting in line together for Goose Island BCBS and Rare on Black Friday. We both narrowly avoided pneumonia after standing outside of a Total Wine for 3 hours on a 40 degree morning in wind driven rain. But the prize of the beer we took home that day, and better yet a new friendship, was certainly worth battling the elements.
Both Rick and Roman were gracious enough to sit down with me for a few minutes and chat business, beer, and all things in between:
We’ll start with the beard himself, Rick.
Q: How long have you been in business?
A: This year will be my 10th year in the business opening Lone Star Beverages in 2006!
Q: What got you started in the craft beer business?
A: When I left real estate sales, I was looking to find something I was passionate about. My father, Sam, had been in retail sales for several years. Carrollton had just passed beer and wine sales and that’s when I asked him to partner with me in opening Lone Star Beverages. I wanted to bring something that I enjoyed and share it with others. With Sam’s experience in the retail business and my passion for the industry, we’ve been blessed to still be a part of the craft beer industry.
Q: Why the DFW Market?
A: I was born and raised here in DFW. What’s better than being able to work where you grow up and have a market that’s growing as fast as we are.
Q: The bottle shop was the first to open several years ago. When did you see the opportunity to open a taproom and what prompted the entry into the growler fill market?
A: My intentions were to create a beer lover’s dream beer shop. It’s a place where you could try a flight, drink a few pints of fresh draft beer and then choose to grab a growler or even bottles to go. The idea to start Taps and Caps first came about several years ago when visiting breweries throughout the country that had tap rooms and really created a great experience and sense of their community around them. I wanted to take the same feel, but have the best beers on tap, local and international. At that time, no one was doing so locally, and getting the proper permits and cities to allow the concept was a challenge. Working with the TABC and local cities we were able to figure out what I needed to do to make it happen. With the growth here in DFW over the last few years of local breweries opening up in the metroplex and distributors bringing in some of the biggest and well known breweries in the nation, I felt that we were ready to share what I have envisioned for years to everyone here in DFW!
Q: You’ve recently opened a new location in an already established beer town in Denton, what do you think sets your shop apart from the other craft beer locations in Denton?
A: Growing up in the DFW area, and getting to experience what Denton has to offer I knew that once I became a part of the industry that I one day I wanted to be in Denton. The last few years Denton really has become a great destination for craft beer. Denton is known for having some great venues to have a few pints and maybe catch a show or experience some local art. What I wanted to bring to Denton was a one stop beer shop that is truly “your craft beer heaven”, where the experience craft beer driven, lead by people who are passionate, and influenced by the local community. The space is much larger than the Lewisville location, where you can sit at the bar, patio, as well as get a growler and package to go. Denton has become the craft beer destination of North Texas and I am proud to now be a part of the community!
Q: Do you have a favorite beer? If so, what is it?
A: Black Tuesday from The Bruery, It’s a huge imperial stout usually hovering around 19% abv, yet well balanced. With hints of vanilla, chocolate and bourbon, it’s a beer you could drink fresh or even age for several years. I just can’t get enough of this beer to be honest! As for what I drink regularly, I love trying what breweries are putting out seasonally and never stick to a particular style. I love that brewers are constantly experimenting and challenging our palettes with unique flavors and ingredients.
Q: Do you have anything in your personal collection that you would never trade?
A: Nope, part of why I love what I do is that I get to share my experiences. Over the years I have been able to meet some great people who have helped bring the craft beer industry to where it is today. Through their generosity I have been able to try some of the best and most sought after beers in the world. If I have access to a beer that someone hasn’t had or wants to try, I am more than excited to share…you know, beer it forward!
Last but not least, words of wisdom from Roman:
Q: You’ve recently started helping manage both Lewisville and Denton locations. Can you speak to the differences in both markets and any pros and cons you have found between the two, or what you like most about both locations?
A: I took over both shops back in January while we were opening Denton, as we felt we wanted to keep our shops unified and didn’t want them to become stand-alone locations. The markets at both locations have their fair share of differences, such as peak hours, traffic flow, and the surrounding beer community — which is to be expected in such different cities, but none that I really view as cons. The best part of our shops is the community that not only surrounds us, but supports what we love to do. Most people that come into the shop are fairly open minded, which allows our passionate staff to really show people what the vast world of beer is doing.
Q: You’ve always been very hospitable and you, Rick, and Sam have always made me feel very welcome. How do you keep your loyal customers loyal while also making new customers feel welcome and continuing to grow the business?
A: I think this a huge concept that all three of us share and are really driven by! Speaking for myself, I treat the people that come into the shop as friends, regardless if we’ve met before. At times, there’s harsh criticism when people think of “craft beer” who haven’t tried much of it, and it’s often intimidating for new people to walk into shops like ours. I do my best to make sure that their hesitation as well as any and all questions are met with an unparalleled experience that makes them feel welcome and invites them to come back and try more. My passion for beer is something that’s instantly noticeable during a conversation, but I make sure it’s not unapproachable. I don’t much care for the attitude of “I’m better than you because I drink craft beer.” It’s a community, and the only way we can grow, is together!
Q: What’s the rarest beer you’ve ever tapped at Taps and Caps? How long did it last?
A: I don’t think I can pick just one rare keg! I’d have to say our one-year anniversary party was probably the most intense event with special kegs that we’ve had at the Lewisville location. In the first 40 minutes we killed kegs of Oskar Blues – Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy, Avery – Uncle Jacobs, Goose Island – Bourbon County Brand Stout, and Firestone Walker – Double DBA, and so many more!
Q: Part of the reason I don’t work in the business is because I would drink all of the product, how do you separate business and pleasure and continue to keep a relaxed yet professional attitude at work?
A: Unsurprisingly, I get asked this question on a regular basis, as well as plenty of jokes surrounding it. I think the best way I keep myself in check not only at the shop, but in my personal life, is making sure I take time to relax and enjoy beers with friends. I love the fact that so many brewers locally as well as around the world are constantly striving to make better and better beer; so being able to try so many different ones is a lot of fun! It’s really easy to get caught up in the constantly changing tap-list, but for the most part, myself and the whole team are good about trying the beer together and talking about what we smell, taste, etc; and being able to talk about them with customers and friends without the need to constantly drink them. Plus, who can really function at work after consuming a lot of beer? …Not me!
Q: Do you have a favorite beer? What is it?
A: This is probably the most difficult question I have to answer! Everyone at the shop can tell you that hands-down, my favorite style is any kind of Lambic or Wild Ale with raspberries in it. However, many years of traveling the country and working different aspects in the industry have me wanting to try every new beer I possibly can — just to see what else is being done and how creative people can get. Realistically, I can’t ever just pick one favorite beer.
Q: Do you have anything in your personal collection that you would never trade?
A: No! I very rarely trade these days anymore, with a few exceptions of good friends scattered across the country. What’s awesome about the beer community in general is that I have never felt like any beer I get is just for me or something that I need to hold onto just to say I have it. Personally, I believe beer is meant to be shared, experienced, and not covetted like a trophy. As most brewers will tell you, beer is best enjoyed fresh! I love the fact that meeting people all over the country and locally I’ve been able to try a good amount of beers. Everything in my collection is going to be shared with somebody at some point!
As you can tell from even a brief conversation, these fellas are certainly beer gurus with a down to earth attitude and a love for the industry. Their humble and welcoming attitudes have turned me into a life long customer, and helped me to not put so many miles on my truck, by providing a local shop that helps me cure the itch to frequently drive back to Denton. If you’re in the area and in need of an excellent craft beer bar, and not just a bar that serves craft beer, Lone Star Taps and Caps is your go to spot for a great time and a great pour. Cheers!