A short time after the turn of the century, Cory Kuchinsky made the three-hour journey from San Antonio to College Station to visit his childhood friend Ty Sefton.
Ever since he was a boy, Sefton had always loved chemistry. The fascination grew more specific at age 15, when he saw a batch of home-brewed beer burping out of bottles in a friend’s bathroom, planting the idea as a way to apply his favorite subject. So naturally, years later, he had a plastic bottle of his own brew ready and waiting for the visiting Kuchinsky.
Kuchinsky took one sip of Sefton’s concoction and said it was horrible. In the same breath, he said that one day, they’d own their own brewery.
More than 15 years later, Sefton, Kuchinsky and Kam Maude are the proud owners of TKO Libations, Castle Hills’ first brewery.
“He’s gotten better, that’s what I tell him,” Kuchinsky laughed. “Fast-forward, like, 12 years, and he makes great beer with Kam.”
The craft brewery opened in September as a weekend bar and has been adding days to its schedule ever since — they’re still not open Mondays and Tuesdays. It is dedicated almost entirely to Maude and Sefton’s award-winning recipes, with flavored stouts, India pale ales and more brewed on-site hundreds of gallons at a time in the massive tankards on display in the corner.
After refining their recipes for more standard lite beers and bocks, Maude and Sefton began experimenting, infusing beers with new flavors.
“We always added a fun element to the beer, the strawberries and coffee and chocolate,” Maude said. “We try to add something creative.”
Probably the beer they’re most known for, Breakfast Stout at Tiffany’s, is a chocolate stout infused with strawberries. A lot of strawberries. More strawberries than Maude could count. That’s a relatively tame recipe — the Southwest Breakfast includes hatch chile and is aged in a whiskey barrel. A Christmas ale would have included figs and dates and pecans, though Maude said the carboy got dropped and the beer never hit shelves.
While their beers are only available at TKO, they’re far from immobile. One of the perks of the bar is their growler and crowler service, allowing patrons to walk out with their unique beer. Sefton said the location, right across the street from Lake Avalon, was ideal for this.
“It’s a giant patio, essentially,” he said.
Though Kuchinsky predicted he and Sefton would own a brewery one day, the idea wouldn’t progress for several years until Maude came into the picture. He and Sefton met at a recreational soccer league, and Maude had just received a home brewing kit for his birthday. It would be three years before they got to know each other and learned they shared the hobby, but they started making beer together once they did. Now, they were working with glass bottles.
All three were college graduates and accomplished professionals at this point. Though they can regularly be found at their bar, they still have day jobs — Kuchinsky works for San Antonio based CPS Energy, Sefton is in HVAC sales and Maude works for T-Mobile. But as Maude and Sefton kept brewing and got better at it, more and more of their friend group began to gravitate toward them on weekend nights. Kuchinsky said Sefton’s place became the group’s preferred bar. One night, when the duo was introducing a new strawberry-infused stout that would become Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Kuchinsky found himself analyzing the brew seriously.
“I’m tasting it like it’s a scotch or a wine,” Kuchinsky said, and brought up the idea of a brewery again. “I said it to him twice, once in jest, once in all seriousness.”
The group decided to enter their beers into the Brew Riot, an annual Dallas brewfest. To enter, they were made to finally come up with a name for themselves — TKO stands for Ty and Kam Operations, though jokes do abound about “knockout brews.” Their first competition in 2014, they came away with nothing. Sefton said this was because they misunderstood the timing of the competition and gave the judges beers that needed to brew for another week. Then in 2015, they blew away the competition, winning first place in the Christmas/winter group with their porter, the Gingerbread Monster, as well as second and third places in the Oktoberfest and flavored beer groups. Then in 2016, they took home another trio of ribbons — Gingerbread Monster took another first place ribbon and Breakfast Stout at Tiffany’s took home first among flavored beers. November Fiesta got another third place prize.
“[Going into business] was an afterthought until we started entering competitions,” Kuchinsky said.
The three of them sat down and hammered out a business plan. They managed to find 200 gallon brewing equipment that could be had for pennies on the dollar — the equipment has its own wild story. Maude said the tanks in their brewery now were made in Italy and shipped to Alaska, where there was some kind of calamity and the bank had to send people to dig them out of solid ice, then they were sold to a company in New York where they changed hands two more times before TKO finally purchased them. Now, they’re working with industrial equipment that usually costs around half a million dollars, pouring brew into their own branded glassware that is specially designed to bring out the flavor in each style of beer they serve.
TKO Libations will host a grand opening 10 a.m. Jan. 13. After an early Zumba class, the bar doors will open at 11 a.m. for a donut and beer pairing. The group plans to offer their current menu, as well as debuting the Tart Blonde, the Special Beast, the Abbey Delight and more. Food trucks will be outside and takeout from surrounding restaurants is always welcome.
TKO, located at 2520 King Arthur Blvd. in Castle Hills, has regular hours 4:30 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with extended hours over the weekend. They plan to expand their hours as demand grows. A full menu of beers is available online.