Nov 06, 2013

Austin Beer Show Stays Close to Home, One Pint at a Time


Mike Langford, wearing a “Locapour” T-shirt, does an interview for his show about craft beers at the Black Star Co-op in Austin while a crew member films it. Photo by Martin do Nascimento.

Correction: This story originally misstated the founding date of Tweetworks and its reason for closing. It was founded in 2008 and folded because it ran out of cash.

By Eva Lorraine Molina
For Reporting Texas

Shows about craft beers have proliferated on television and the Internet over the past several years, but Mike Langford thinks he’s found room for one more.

Langford, a 41-year-old Bostonian who moved to Austin in 2011, is producing “Locapour,” an online show that focuses on Central Texas beers. His strategy: Build an audience of local beer aficionados and the thousands of tourists who pour through the state capital. If it works, he can replicate the show in other beer-loving towns, such as Boston or Portland.

A growing number of cities fit that profile. The craft beer industry is growing by double digit percentages each year in terms of output and sales, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group. There are more than 2,400 craft breweries in the United States, with 84 in Texas and 26 in Austin.

Other shows that have made it to mass audiences travel from town to town in search of unusual microbrews. “Beer Geeks” is syndicated to more than 60 TV stations nationally, including one in Austin, where it airs for 30 minutes Sundays at 1 a.m. The show’s host travels from one craft brewery to the next and tries their products.

“Brew Dogs,” which airs on Esquire channel, chronicles the weird beer-making efforts of its hosts. A recent half-hour episode featured brewers foraging for flavorings as they brewed beer while floating down the Willamette River in Portland, Ore., on a raft made of kegs.

The two national shows are available online, but they’re primarily for broadcast television. Langford’s episodes target tech-savvy drinkers interested in craft brews. Each is “one beer long,” Langford said.

Jeff Young, head brewer at the Black Star Co-op in North Austin, said Locapour is “a craft show about craft beer.”

The 10-minute shows concentrate on the beer. Langford drinks a pint with a brewer or pub owner in the same venue that sells the beer.

“ ‘Locapour’ would be a good resource for someone like me who puts together personalized food and dining experiences for people while they’re on vacation,” said Kelley Kassa, founder of Foodie Journey, a food-tourism company.

Photo by Martin do Nascimento

Mike Langford. Photo by Martin do Nascimento

For now, Langford is paying $1,500 to produce each episode. He’s using social media to help build his brand. He wants to take the show to other cities and hopes a network or streaming service such as Netflix will become interested. “I would love for ‘Locapour’ to one day become synonymous with beer,” Langford said.

Langford is no stranger to business risk. He quit his “stuffy” and  “unfulfilling”  job at Fidelity Investments in Boston and started his own investment firm, Course Pilot Financial, in 2006.

In 2008, Langford tried his hand at a tech start-up. He founded Tweetworks, which grouped tweets among users. The company folded when it ran out of cash.

“If you’re a finance guy and you quit your job to start your own investment firm and then see an opportunity in tech and decide to take a swing at it, what is the worst thing?” Langford said. “You run out of money, shut that down, think about what you want to do next, and you do it.”

Langford moved his investment firm and his family—he has a wife, a daughter and a son—to Austin in May 2011.

He connected with the beer-making community, including the owners and manager of Craft Pride, a bar in downtown Austin that has 54 Texas beers on tap.

David Voss, Craft Pride’s general manager, said customers reference ‘Locapour’ when they ask for a particular beer.

“Why have a beer made somewhere else when what’s made locally is world-class?” Voss said.

Langford compares ‘Locapour’ with “locavores,” who favor food produced nearby. He said the show would be fortunate to gain an audience and financial traction, and he sees a good chance of success.

“There is enough room in the craft beer community for several shows,” he said.

Locapour’s first show on its YouTube channel drew 301 views. That number is up to around 2,000 per episode now.

A competitor, the “Beer Diaries,” is also based in Austin. It’s been in production about a year, and its episodes draw more than 7,000 viewers. The show travels and isn’t anchored to the Austin area like “Locapour.”

“I’ll give it a year, and if I’m not where I want to be, then I’ll move on to the next thing,” Langford said.