By Emily Dieckman
Todd Button had been in the printing industry for almost 20 years when the company he worked for relocated to Pennsylvania in 2013. They offered him great pay, help with moving expenses and even money for a down payment on a house.
When Todd told his wife, Erika, that he wanted to stay in Tucson and open up a brewery instead, she was amenable to the idea.
“If you can complete a business plan… and can show it’s going to support our family, then let’s do it,” she said.
It made sense for the couple, who used to plan their vacations around what breweries they would go to, to get involved with the city’s exploding scene. Encountering breweries on vacation that were closed on Mondays, Erika said, is what made them decide to keep their brewhouse open seven days a week. Todd had been home brewing with a kit Erika had bought him for years. With Todd’s printing experience and Erika’s background in graphic design, they’re also huge supporters of not just craft beer, but craft in general, Erika said.
“Beer inspires me,” Todd added.
Todd spent the next few months putting together an 85-page business plan, and then decided he needed to get serious if he was going to hop to the top. He’d gotten great feedback from friends and family on his homebrew.
“But let’s face it: it’s free beer, and they’re friends and my family,” he said. “I was a home brewer, and we’re trying to go ‘pro.’”
He earned a “Business for Craft Brewers” certification from Portland State University, and took a course through the American Brewers Guild in Vermont to become a master brewer. He returned to Tucson and started working hospitality: he helped open Arizona Beer House, where he worked until January, and was a part of the opening staff for Tucson Hop Shop, where he worked until June.
“When we asked other brewers ‘what would you do differently?’ they said ‘we would wait a little longer and save a little more so we could start out a little bigger,’” Erika said. “I think we took our time and did it right. That’s what I’m hearing over and over again.”
Between receiving the training, raising the funds and taking care of the construction, opening Button Brewhouse, Tucson’s newest microbrewery, took about four years. What makes them different? Todd said that he gets that question a lot: “What’s your thing?”
“Our thing is great beer: doing it right, true to style, as best we can, no off-flavors,” he said.
In the middle of all this, the Button family increased its size. The couple already had two daughters, ages 6 and 18, and baby Vivienne was just born in May, in the midst of the building’s construction that began in March. Erika joked that Vivienne more or less has lived at the brewery her whole life.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” Erika said. “We took two days off to have her.”
Through all of the connections the couple has made in the local brewers community, Todd finally has people to tell him what they honestly think of his beer, and he’s been getting rave reviews. Last Friday, for the first night of Button Brewhouse’s soft-opening event, tables full of brewers, beer enthusiasts and friends were enjoying the microbrewery’s four year-round options: the All Souls Stout, the Button IPA, the Volstead Pilsner and—their flagship beer—the Chiltepin Red Ale.
“Everything is super, super, super solid,” said Sherwood Alger, a distributor with Hensley. “I’m looking forward to seeing their taps around town. I’ve been a fan of their Chiltepin Red Ale for years and years.”
Josh Ratliff, the manager of Everything Homebrew (the brick-and-mortar manifestation of home-brew kit retailer Mr. Beer), also had nothing but praise for the new business.
“I would say that his chili beer is the best I’ve ever had, and I’m a huge fan of chili beers,” he said. “I’m impressed overall with everything.”
The couple was glowing with excitement as the brew house bustled and pints were poured. Years of home brewing, planning and training had finally started to pay off.
“They taste here like they did when I was making ‘em at home,” Todd said, and paused. “Maybe a little better.”
Button Brewhouse’s grand opening is on Saturday, Sept. 16 from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday Sept. 17 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is located at 6800 N. Camino Martin, Ste. 160.