June 26, 2022



Local Group Brewing to become different concept under new owners

3 min read

Local Group Brewing will soon have different beers, different food and a different name as three new owners took over the space this week.

Under a newly formed group, Distincture Hospitality, partners Dave Sorrell, Jorge Benitez and Morgan Green plan to transform the brewery in the coming months. Initially opened in February 2020, mere weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, Local Group was previously helmed by Todd Donewar, Michael Steeves and James “Huggy Bear” Wolfe; the latter has headed over to Holler Brewing in Sawyer Yards.

Prior to Distincture, Benitez worked at Holler for three years as its hospitality director, and before that was the opening manager at Saint Arnold’s beer garden and restaurant. He will oversee the food, drink and hospitality operations along with Sorrell, who’s worked at Chris Shepherd’s restaurants and the Kirby Group. Green will have an administrative role.

From left to right: Jorge Benitez, Morgan Green and Dave Sorrell have acquired Local Group Brewing.

From left to right: Jorge Benitez, Morgan Green and Dave Sorrell have acquired Local Group Brewing.

Dylan McEwan

Sorrell, Benitez and Green had already been thinking about opening a brewery from the ground up, and were actually very near to closing on buying some land when the Local Group team approached them.

“I had seen they’d been reducing their hours, so I assumed that they had been hurting,” said Sorrell. It all happened very quickly, but after a few conversations, they left the deal to buy land and got the keys to Local Group instead.

For now, the trio owns all of Local Group’s recipes and plans to keep brewing them until they complete their rebrand. They are actively looking for a new head brewer to spearhead the next chapter on the beer side.

On the food side, Local Group was already known for its creative and rather ambitious menu, which was more elevated than your typical brewpub fare. The kitchen served space-themed eats, such as the Space City Brussels Sprouts with citrus-chile butter, chipotle sauce and sesame seeds, and the One Giant Leap for Queso, made with the brewery’s Suntoucher blonde ale.

The new partners say they want to make it more approachable, but they still brought on starpower to lead the kitchen. Chef Danny Leal comes over from Night Shift, the popular cocktail bar in the East End that made some buzz when it opened in July 2021, but closed suddenly in April, presumably temporarily.

“I hung out as much as I could with the hopes that we would be reopening,” said Leal. “My wife and I have a baby on the way and I just wanted to keep working so I can be able to provide for my family.”

Leal says he always builds menus with Houston’s multicultural identity in mind, and plans to do that with Local Group’s new food program, which will be unveiled in June. Locals raved about his food at Night Shift, which included bar bites like chicharrones, yuca fries, a brisket gordita and a gas station burrito. At the new concept, there will be 10 to 12 food items, including snacks, individual and shareable plates, and featuring some vegan and vegetarian options. Leal says he wants everyone to be accommodated.

Chef Daniel Leal is taking over the food program at Local Group Brewing, which will soon be renamed.

Chef Daniel Leal is taking over the food program at Local Group Brewing, which will soon be renamed.

Dylan McEwan

“I want to be able to play with the classics of brewery food and bar food and reamp them into a different approach, something more playful and new,” said Leal.

There will be no beer cheese, he adds.

While Local Group was more of a brewery that happened to have really good food, Sorrell says the beer and the food at the new concept will take up “equal parts”—some people may be there just for food, others just for the beer.

They will also be adding wine on tap, leaning into Sorrell’s experience working at Heights Bier Garten and Hollman Draft Hall, as well as some non-alcoholic beverages.

The entire 7,500-square-foot space will also be redesigned to put their own touch on it: new lick of paint, new furniture, new fixtures. They are hoping to complete all of these changes, including the rebrand, by the fall patio season. Sorrell says regulars of Local Group have been excitedly asking questions, to which he always responds: “I can’t tell you quite yet, but it’s going to be good.”

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