Battlehops Brewing innovates to keep playing

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 8/12/20

Battlehops Brewing on the west side of Katy is changing the way it does business in order to keep customers playing games. Under current executive orders from Tex. Governor Greg Abbott, the brewpub …

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Battlehops Brewing innovates to keep playing

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Battlehops Brewing on the west side of Katy is changing the way it does business in order to keep customers playing games. Under current executive orders from Tex. Governor Greg Abbott, the brewpub would ordinarily not be able to be open because it makes 51% or more of its revenue from alcohol sales – or at least it did.

To comply with the order, the owners JD Merritt and his wife Jessica Merritt have essentially turned the brewpub into a board game shop and snack bar that just happens to sell beer to go, they said. Jumping through the hoops of the orders and trying to stay open has been stressful, Jessica said.

“It’s been so stressful. We just celebrated our first anniversary (for the business) during the last three months,” Jessica said. “The first year of any business is going to be crazy, but this has just compounded it.”

To help game players minimize the number of places they visit during an outing to play games, the Merritts have added more food items to their menu, JD said.

“Our aim is to make sure we can keep people here so they don’t have to leave just to go eat,” Jessica said.

The expanded menu includes hot dogs, burgers, chips and popcorn and an expanded nonalcoholic drink menu, she said. Over the next few weeks, Battlehops will also be adding soft drinks, and will continue to serve their own root beer which is brewed in-house.

The business has also looked at ways they could help the community, Jessica said. Board games often involve math and history, so the game room is offering what they’ve dubbed “Battlehops Gameschool.” This event is a game session where parents can bring their children to play games that teach history or focus on math skills, Jessica said.

Going virtual

Innovation has also come with expanding the inventory the company offers and offering online sales for everything, Jessica said.

Board games have been added for sale and JD said he’d been pleasantly surprised with how well game sales have been going. The games range in price from about $10 to about $50 and can be ordered for pickup curbside, just like their entire food and drink menu – those picking up alcohol still have to be 21 years old and have ID when they pick up their orders if alcohol is included.

The pub hasn’t stopped brewing though and Katy’s beer aficionados can still pick up the brewpub’s Chocolate Rye IPA, Collaboration, Black is Beautiful and Luchasaur Rex Vienna Lager – but those items have to be ordered to go, Jessica said. That’s one of the stipulations allowing the gaming pub to stay open and keep moving forward during the COVID-19 pandemic under Abbott’s orders. Wine from Erma Rose Winery, another local Katy business is also available for curbside pickup.

Serving the beer prepackaged rather than on tap is more expensive and finding cans is sometimes a challenge, Jessica said, but providing the curbside service for alcohol and keeping the game room open as a family-friendly and socially distanced location with good food keeps the place going, Jessica said.

They’ve also expanded their marketing to new social media platforms and groups which has allowed them to spread the word about their new mode of operation, Jessica said.

Keeping it clean

The Merritts understand the need for safety and have set up measures to ensure social distancing on the game room floor which features about 600 games for patrons to check out and play, JD said. The games in the game library can be checked out only once per week and are then quarantined until it is safe to use them again.

“We’re following all of the guidelines,” Jessica said. “We follow the same rules as restaurants.”

Tables which hold a maximum of eight board gamers are spaced more than six feet apart to ensure social distancing and guests are asked to wear masks when they aren’t eating or drinking, Jessica said.

In addition to the regular cleaning required for any food establishment, Battlehops has increased its efforts to sanitize the tables and other items patrons come into contact with.

In the end, the Merritts are working to keep the game room safe and profitable to take care of their kids, whom they’ve decided to home school the first semester of this school year. JD said keeping Battlehops Brewing clean and running smoothly is vital, because it’s what keeps him working.

“I can’t afford to get sick. If something happens and I get sick, I can’t work and keep things going,” he said.

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