A couple weeks I got to sit down with an old friend, Jeremy Toledo, owner of Toledo’s Hop Shop in downtown Waco, for a story in a local arts publication, Waco Weekly.
I’ve known Jeremy since my college days, when he was my manager at a local drafthouse. I think it’s common for Baylor alumni still living in Waco to see their Baylor time and their time after graduation as completely separate. But Jeremy’s one of those few people that I’ve known during every stage of living in Waco, college and all. His parents even catered part of me and Shorty’s wedding festivities.
Sitting with him in his very own craft beer shop, those early days in Waco back when we were all working in a bar and dreaming of our futures seemed a world away. Even if we haven’t known it all along, in retrospect, it feels like we have all been hoping for the same thing — to bring something to Waco we didn’t have before. In our case, a college pizza joint; in his, craft beer. So many of us have tried leaving town and moving to the big city, but it didn’t stick. Now it feels like time for making our dreams for Waco into realities.
In December, Jeremy opened Waco’s first craft beer store, Toledo’s Hop Shop, located downtown — an area developers and business-owners hope will boom into an artsy walking area lined with local shops and businesses. The Hop Shop feels like a step in that direction, but it’s also homegrown — born of Jeremy’s love of beer and his belief that Waco needs this. The beer, that is.
Over the past months, I’ve seen Jeremy stock his shelves, amassing a curated selection of beers that includes over 100 12oz. singles from around the country, a huge selection of offerings from Texan breweries, and several hand-picked international favorites. He stocks a few wines and even some supplies for homebrewers and cheesemakers, with disc golf supplies coming soon.
Jeremy was born in Waco and grew up in China Spring. He spent two years in Austin working in the distribution industry and returned to Waco in February 2013, when he started thinking about opening his own store. “After moving back [home] and being disappointed with the craft beer landscape at the chain grocery and liquor stores [here in town],” he told me, “I decided Waco needed another option.”
Before Jeremy opened the shop a few months ago, the property housed an old payday loans business for as long as locals remember. “It definitely was an eye-opening experience opening The Shop,” Jeremy said of fixing up the store and opening for business, “Just when you think you have everything ready to go, something always seems to pop up to delay the opening.”
Jeremy was excited about the neighborhood, though. “I really like the downtown area and the direction [it’s] heading,” he says, “There seems to be a higher concentration of small, independent shops down here and I thought I would be a nice fit in this area.” It’s true, the Hop Shop’s opening comes in tandem with the reopening of Waco’s historic Hippodrome theatre just next door, new local bars, a coffee shop getting a lot of attention, and plans to turn the empty Stratton Building across the street into a multi-use apartment and retail building. A hotdog truck parks on a nearby corner, and the surrounding blocks are studded with Waco staples and new local business ventures.
Even if Toledo is a part of the growing momentum around Waco’s downtown, though, his motives grow out of his appreciation for good beer. His dream is to bring the experience of craft beer out of the bar and into the outdoors, off of barstools and onto couches and lawn chairs.
Despite the stretches of empty buildings along Waco’s old main drag, Austin Avenue–remnants of Waco’s post-tornado “fall” of the 1950s and the outflux of jobs to the broader swaths of factories and industrial employers outside of town–standing in the Hop Shop, it’s not hard to imagine a downtown Waco full of artists and small businesses. A conglomeration of old town staples and dreamers willing to put in some sweat as they breathe new life into crumbling historic buildings.
My hope is that no matter how much refurbishing we do in town, we don’t forget our roots, the people who were here before Waco became cool, and the simple pleasures like sipping a beer outside that make us us.
Still interested in Jeremy and his Hop Shop? Check out the article about him in Waco Weekly here.
Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Bread with Bacon and Honey Butter
Makes an 8 x 4 in loaf pan
This beer bread is simple to toss together and forgiving of alterations to the recipe. Serve it with chili or breakfast eggs, and make sure to slather it with a good helping of honey butter.
Tip: Contrary to what you might think, good beer bread doesn’t require strong beer. In fact, it does better with lighter brews, and an old can leftover from a BBQ will do just fine. Using a stronger beer will result in a beer bread with a more “hoppy” or bitter flavor.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder*
1 teaspoon table salt
3 Tablespoons fresh, finely diced jalapeno
¾ cup grated cheddar cheese + ¼ cup for topping
12 oz. light or mild beer
2-3 Tablespoons (about 3 strips) bacon, crumbled, for topping
1 egg + 1 teaspoon water, for glaze
8 Tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
4 Tablespoons honey
* Pro Tip: To make sure your bread rises, ensure that your baking powder is fewer than six months old.
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease an 8 x 4 in loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2. In a large skillet, crisp bacon over medium heat. Drain over paper towels, finely chop or crumble, and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ¾ cup grated cheese, and diced jalapeno. Add beer slowly, mixing just until combined. Do not overmix.
4. Turn dough out into the prepared loaf pan, spreading with a spatula to form an even layer. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water, and apply to the top of the loaf with a brush or the back of a spoon. Spread bacon crumbles over the top, pressing down very slightly so that they stick.
5. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the loaf from the oven and brush with a bit more egg wash (if it looks pale) and top with remaining grated cheese. Return to the oven for another 5-15 minutes, testing for a skewer or knife to come out clean. Cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes, then use a serrated bread knife for clean, even slices. Serve with Honey Butter. Keeps wrapped in plastic for 2 days.
1. Whisk butter and honey together until combined.
2. Serve immediately on sliced beer bread, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one month.