MISSION — Big things are brewing in Mission, and it’s not just the beer at 5×5 Brewing Co.
The humble operation at 5×5 is the culmination of a 20-year journey that is seemingly picking up speed and gaining momentum.
Originally started by Director of Operations George Rice with his brother and finance manager, Matt Mazur, and their childhood friend and general manager Sean Downey, all native to Mission, their brewery has already made a name for itself in the Rio Grande Valley over the last two years, with their beer in restaurants and bars from Brownsville all the way to Roma.
The brand carries themes and imagery inspired by the United States military, fitting since six of the seven owners are veterans themselves. Even the name is a military term for “loud and clear.”
The phrase has also come to mean everything, or everyone is good, which is what the owners of the brewery had in mind when they came up with the name.
“We’ve known each other for over 30 years,” Downey said. “Matt Mazur had a buddy when he was in college, Matt Bowling. They had originally talked about doing a craft beer magazine down here because they both loved craft beer. That never went anywhere. Fast forward, George had just got out of the Army. He came back from Afghanistan and Iraq, was working in the oil fields, and the two Matts, they just started throwing around the idea of starting a brewery.
“Bowling had been a home brewer for years, and a distiller. So Bowling’s like, ‘Well I can do the recipes.’ George said, ‘Well I know fluid dynamics.’ So they originally put the idea together and incorporated in August of 2016.”
By January 2017, Downey started being involved with the branding and marketing, eventually landing a partnership with the brewery.
Since then, 5×5 has grown to become the largest distributing brewer in the RGV, and currently has nine beers on regular rotation, as well as a new pitch black lager that Rice describes as the best beer they’ve ever made. It’s expected to be released soon.
The company also has aspirations in apparel, a distillery and mobile canning.
While the company has found success in brewing, another passion of the group is giving back to the community, especially when it comes to veterans.
One such effort is an apprenticeship program with South Texas College.
“We’re trying to encourage more people to open breweries for themselves,” Downey said. “We’ve even invited people who are interested to come over here and see how we do things. That’s how the apprenticeship program came about. We’re already trying to empower other entrepreneurs to open a brewery because competition breeds innovation.”
Aside from their involvement with local veteran organizations, such as the Marine Corps League, American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, among others, the company actively looks to create opportunities for veterans through employment and donations to veteran charities.
“There’s a huge mentality issue within the veteran community that resonates throughout our overall cultural mentality in America. We have a lot of professional victims,” said Rice. “One of our main things besides selfless service is veteran empowerment. If six or seven of us idiots can put this together, why can’t you do something? Your best days aren’t behind you; they’re in front of you. We push that really hard with our employees, with our business, and with all the nonprofit stuff we’re involved with.”
Their work ethic is something that they attribute to their experiences with the military.
“In the Marine Corps, and other military branches, you’re always adapting and overcoming. You’re always presented with trouble, problems that need to be fixed,” Downey said. “I had some great NCOs (noncommissioned officers) that empowered me when I was in the Marine Corps. You never say, ‘I don’t know’ when they ask you a question. You always said, ‘I’ll find out,’ or ‘I’ll get you an answer today.’”
“There’s going to be a solution for everything, no matter how bad it is,” Rice added. “It’s not always nice, but there’s always going to be a plan of action.”
The 5×5 brewery has become well known for its numerous events hosted there, which usually feature many local vendors. One of their stipulations for having vendors attend their events is that they must donate a percentage of their earnings from the event to a veterans charity.
The brewery helped organize Mission’s first veterans parade, which will be held this weekend.
“It’s never been done. It’s just weird that we’ve never done a Veterans Day parade. It started out as just a Veterans Day parade, and now it’s a whole weekend of events.”
Those events include a flag placing ceremony at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery. Then there is the parade scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday. It will start on Conway Avenue, go down Business 83 and end at the Center for Education and Economic Development (CEED) Building, where there will be seven bands performing live, a bounce house for children, food vendors and veteran information booths.
The festivities conclude on Sunday with the Green Zone Chili Cook Off, in which five teams of veterans, each representing a branch of the military, will compete to see who makes the best chili. The competition will be hosted by the brewery.