MC grad now managing partner of local craft beer company
Midland College (MC) graduate Jeff Thomas and his four partners opened Tall City Brewing Co. on November 15, 2019. Despite the setbacks with COVID and a dramatic decline in the local energy industry, Thomas said that business is booming for the craft beer brewery located at 3303 W. Golf Course Road in Midland.
“It comes down to the quality of the beer,” Thomas explained. “Our brew master Jack Sparks does an awesome job. He’s from Dallas and was working in Miami but wanted to get back to Texas. We were lucky to find him!”
Thomas, along with brothers Erich and Nicholas Schmidt had the idea of starting the company in 2016. The three met and became friends in 2006 while working as landmen.
“After we had the initial idea and filed for our LLC in 2016, it definitely wasn’t a fast process to open,” Thomas recalled. “During the time we were acquiring resources, we met Jarrod and Josh Sparks who also wanted to open a craft beer place in Midland. In fact, they heard that we were going to start the business and reached out to us on Facebook. We hit it off, and so the five of us became partners.”
Thomas is the managing partner and oversees the daily operations of Tall City Brewing Company. In addition to Thomas and Jack Sparks, the company employs eight part-time taproom servers. Of course, as Thomas explained, there is also a brew assistant named Marshall who is Jack’s dog and even has a beer named after him.
Thomas said that he wants Tall City Brewing Company to have a warm, welcoming, and laid-back atmosphere. This includes for customers as well as employees.
“All of our employees are craft beer connoisseurs,” he said. “I encourage new ideas from them.”
In fact, all of the beer flavors and their creative names, which have their roots in something that is unique to Midland, were developed by Thomas, the partners, and the employees. They include “Five Hour Drive Honey Blonde Ale,” derived from the fact that Midland is in the middle of everywhere, but it just takes 5 hours to get there; “Haboob Hefeweizen,” named after the giant West Texas sandstorms; and “Bird Lady American Pale Ale,” a tribute to Midge Erskine who lived across the street from Tall City Brewing Co. and took care of injured and exotic birds.
Thomas said that the flavors for the beers are all the creation of Brew Master Sparks.
“We just tell him what flavor profiles we want, and he knocks it right out!” Thomas said. “My theory is that the best ideas come after two beers; the worst after 3 beers!”
Tall City Brewing Co. can accommodate 300 people in their taproom, and they also have a large patio. The establishment prides itself on being family-friendly.
“We aren’t a bar,” Thomas explained. “We close at 10:00.”
In addition to beers, Tall City offers soft drinks and wine on tap. Thomas said that plans are to begin also selling a hard cider in the near future. The company is all about promoting Midland small businesses, and they invite locally owned food truck vendors to park on the premises during operating hours so customers can purchase food.
Thomas was born and raised in West Texas. He graduated from Midland High School in 2001 and attended Midland College from 2001-2003. After graduating from Midland College, he transferred to Texas Tech and received a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations/Marketing with an English minor in 2006.
“I really enjoyed my time at Midland College,” Thomas said. “I don’t think I was ready to go off to a large university right after high school graduation, and I’m thankful that I didn’t. I made a lot of new friends at MC, and the professors were very personable. It was nice to be able to email a professor and get a personal response and receive help.
“Midland College is very, very important to Midland. It offers a premium education at an affordable price. It is a privilege to have a college of this caliber in Midland, and I’m proud of the fact that I’m a graduate and chose to remain in Midland to raise my family and start a business.”
Thomas’s wife Brittany has also lived in Midland most of her life. She is a graduate of Lee High School and has an Associate of Applied Science degree in nursing from MC. The couple have three children, Brooke who is 16, Sam who is 8, and Olivia who is 2.
Thomas said that growing up in Midland coupled with his public relations degree from Texas Tech helped to prepare him to manage Tall City Brewing Co.
“I understand Midlanders and know how to market the business,” Thomas explained.
For about a year, Tall City’s beers have been available on tap at various Midland restaurants. In January, Tall City Brewing Co. began releasing cans of their two most popular flavors, “Five Hour Drive Honey Blond Ale” and “Haboob Hefeweizen,” at Midland and Odessa HEB stores and West Texas convenience stores.
The future of Tall City Brewing Co. is quite promising. Thomas said that plans are to expand brewing capacity by adding more tanks, and he looks forward to offering more live entertainment on the premises soon. Thanks to Thomas and his partners, Midlanders are now able to enjoy local craft beer in a family-friendly atmosphere.