The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Alumnus-owned brewery a Dallas hit

Lakewood Brewing Co. is the creation of SMU alumnus Wim Bens. (Courtesy of

It was almost midnight and Wim Bens was on a mission. His soon-to-be 21-year-old self wanted one thing and one thing alone to celebrate: a Belgian beer.

As the clock struck midnight, the Belgian native found his taste of home at the now-relocated Flying Saucer that once stood on Greenville Avenue with his fellow Southern Methodist University crew, and after that beer, the next and the one after, a seed was planted in Bens’ mind.

“It’s funny. That search to find a taste of home led me to explore American craft beer,” Bens said.

Today, Bens pats the side of the giant stainless steel drums that fill his warehouse as if they were old friends. He sifts hops pellets through his hands like they’re golden nuggets.

For Bens, now the founder and owner of the up and coming Lakewood Brewing Company, that’s truly what the ingredients and equipment of his start-up beer company are.

“You always feel that pull. This company is our baby, too,” said Bens, father of two. Bens’ wife, Brenda, serves as the vice president of the company.

Only a few years ago, Bens could be found working in Downtown Dallas as an advertising creative director, a far cry from his current aromatic office in the Lakewood brewhouse. An SMU alumnus, Bens did what every college graduate feels pressure to do: get a job right out of college.

“I graduated from SMU in 2000 and just got a job, because that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Bens said.

When he got off work at TracyLocke, the advertising firm based in Dallas, Bens and a buddy homebrewed in their kitchens as a hobby and a way to expand their love of craft beer.

“We got set up with a good homebrew kit and started homebrewing. We liked it, and we started making beer. We started making good beer,” Bens said. “And then we got more and more toys, and more and more involved and it moved out of the kitchen and then into the garage. And then it took over the garage.”

One of these friends who homebrewed with Bens through this whole process, as their beer won competitions and gained recognition, was Craig Bradley.

A colleague from TracyLocke, Bradley said Bens would toss out the idea of a brewery every so often, but no one quite believed him.

“People would say, ‘Well, that’s going to be cool’ or ‘Good luck with that.’ It wasn’t until a few years into it, when he got into the American Brewers Guild, that we all realized: he was really serious about this,” Bradley said.

Bradley left his job at TracyLocke to join Bens after his friend finalized the plans for the brewery and now serves as the marketing and events manager.

Bens himself, who hoped that after nearly 10 years of balancing his more traditional professional work life with his true love he would find success in brewing, never expected Lakewood to be so successful so quickly.

“By no means are we big, though compared to my kitchen this a lot bigger, yes. I didn’t expect it to grow this fast. That’s been the hardest challenge, keeping production going while growing and adding and changing,” Bens said.

Temptress, one of Bens’ first brews, barely stayed on the shelves of local stores for two days before selling out. They released a bourbon-barrel- aged version this winter, said Bens. The stout is so popular that not only did Lakewood work tirelessly to keep up production for the winter seasonal beer, but the brewers also decided to release a raspberry flavored Temptress in time for Valentine’s Day.

In addition to the four year-round beers (Rock Ryder, Hop Trapp, the original Temptress and Lakewood Lager), the company releases four seasonal beers and a one-and-done “legendary” series, which produces a limited number of kegs and cases that will be retired once they sell out.

Lakewood also releases an anniversary beer, Lion’s Share, each year in August, when they celebrate their first sale in 2012.

“I think we have a good portfolio where we have a bunch of different brands that have a little bit for everybody,” Bens said. “If you’re a light-beer drinker, you’re going to like Rock Ryder. If you’re kind of a Shiner drinker, Lakewood Lager is definitely up your alley. And if you’re more adventurous, Hop Trapp and Temptress are more in your realm.”

Bens, who helps give brewery tours each Saturday when he’s available, likens brewing beer to baking.

“The different types of beers we make are like different cakes. All cakes have the same ingredients — flour, sugar and eggs. What makes them different are the little things you add, to make a chocolate cake or a carrot cake, but the base is always the same,” Bens said.. “It’s the same with beer. The base is always the same. It’s the specialty malts, the caramel malt or the chocolate malt or whatever, that’s going to make your beer a stout versus a pilsner.”

With a diploma from the American Brewers Guild in intensive brewing science and engineering and an apprenticeship at Rahr & Sons Brewing Company in Fort Worth, Texas, after graduation, Bens has worked hard and for nearly a decade to get to this point.

“It takes a village to make beer. It’s really hard work,” Bens said. “The learning curve is vertical. It’s drinking through a firehose. You have to be flexible and know a little bit about everything: real estate, zoning, general contracting and everything that comes with a brewing company.”

Bens, who had not served in a managerial position before, is a self-described hands-on manager. Bradley explains that Bens, though a creative guy, is very goal oriented and serious about the success of Lakewood.

“Once he gets his mind set, he goes for it. He doesn’t forget that we’re brewing beer for a living but he balances that seriousness well,” Bradley said.

“I like to think I’m a good boss,” Bens said.

From the looks of the roughly eight people packaging kegs and cases or checking on the beer brewing in those stainless steel vats, signs point to yes.

Lakewood Brewing Company tours run from noon to 3 p.m. for $10 and includes
four beers.

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