Monday, April 13, 2015

Inaugural North Texas Firkin Fest releases preliminary beer list

Image credit: Texas Craft Brewers Guild

Marked by the return of Big Texas Beer Fest this past weekend, beer festival season is upon us here in the Metroplex. And, while you're no doubt familiar with names like BTBF, Untapped and the Best Little Brewfest in Texas, a new sort of event is on the horizon.

Coming to the Picnic Grounds adjacent to Globe Life Park in Arlington on Saturday, April 25 at 1 p.m., the North Texas Firkin Fest will offer up just what its name implies, an all-cask event featuring rare and one-off tappings from breweries located around the Lone Star State. Produced by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the same organization behind the Texas Craft Brewers Festival in Austin, Firkin Fest follows a similar affair in Houston put on by the Guild in March. It's also the first time the group will host an event in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Currently fifteen breweries are expected to be in attendance, a full list of which can be found on the official festival website, Ticket prices range from $35 for general admission, to $70 for VIP privileges. The latter includes early entrance, a commemorative T-shirt and growler. Designated driver tickets are also available for $10, with all options on sale now at Ticketfly.

Attendees will receive a tasting cup with eight sample tickets, each good for a 3-ounce pour (additional samples may be purchased on site). The beer list is included below, with the full list to be released later this week (note, in some case descriptions are adapted from those found on the respective brewery's website).

Cedar Creek Brewery

Danko Colada (6.8% ABV | 70 IBU): Dankosaurus with grilled pineapple and toasted coconut.

Baja Patio Pounder (5.5% ABV | 35 IBU): Patio Pounder Pale Lager with lime and coconut.

Chimera Brewing Company

Citra Dry Hopped Shields Up! (5% ABV | 45 IBU): American-style pale ale brewed with Blacklands malt, along with Cascade, Crystal and Zythos hops for a citrus and floral punch with a clean, crisp finish.

Roman Empire (6% ABV | 35 IBU): English-style pale ale with added Myrtle leaves to create a spicy, herbaceous and balanced spin on a classic style.

Collective Brewing Project

Funkytown Series - Petite Golden Sour (4.5% ABV | 1 IBU): Brewed with Brettanomyces bruxelensis var. Drie and lacto delbruckeii, Brett lambicus was added to the firkin and the beer was dry-hopped with Citra.

Funkytown Series - American Sour Red (6.6% ABV | 16 IBU): Brewed with Brettanomyces bruxelensis var. Drie and lacto brevis, this beer has a Flanders Red malt bill and was aged in Icaria Winery Cabernet barrels. In addition, Brett lambicus was added to the firkin.

Community Beer Company

Public Ale ESB with EKG Hops (5.5% ABV | 38 IBU): Public Ale dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings to produce a slightly hoppier finish highlighting earthy, spicy, herbal and piney notes.

Legion with Blackberries (9.9% ABV | 70 IBU): Legion aged on organic blackberries to increase the depth of flavor and add a sweeter, fruity component complimenting the roasted chocolate and coffee flavors of the base beer.

Deep Ellum Brewing Company

Capt'n Fantastic (6% ABV | 35 IBU): Oatmeal Pale Ale dry-hopped with El Dorado and Simcoe.

Boombox (6.6% ABV | 32 IBU): Oak Cliff Coffee Ale with added coffee and cinnamon sticks infused with rum from the Witherspoon Distillery in Lewisville.

Four Corners Brewing Company

El Chingón with Guava & Ancho (8% ABV | 76 IBU): El Chingón dry-hopped for an intense fresh hop aroma, then infused with guava and ancho.

Local Buzz with Sorachi Ace (5.2% ABV | 22 IBU): Local Buzz dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace, which is known for its high-alpha aroma and intense lemon character.

Grapevine Craft Brewery

Citrus Hibiscus Monarch (4.3% ABV | 21 IBU): Classic American wheat ale with hibiscus, orange peel, sage and lavender tea blend added for a tart, refreshing finish.

Root Beer Sir William's (4.9% ABV | 21 IBU): English brown ale steeped with sassafras, sarsaparilla and vanilla beans for a flavor reminiscent of an old fashioned cask brewed beer.

Independence Brewing Company

Power & Light Pale with Raspberries (5.5% ABV | 42 IBU): Crisp, hoppy and refreshing session pale ale with added raspberries.

Busted for Possession (7.5% ABV | 95 IBU): Blend of Stash IPA and Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout dry-hopped with whole leaf Columbus hops.

Lakewood Brewing Company

Ancho Lager (4.6% ABV): Lakewood Lager with ancho chilies.

Piña Colada Rock Ryder (4.8% ABV): Rock Ryder rye wheat with pineapple and coconut.

Martin House Brewing Company

Pretzel Stout with Butterfingers (6.5% ABV | 43 IBU): Pretzel Stout with Butterfinger candy for an added bit of peanut butter and chocolatey goodness.

Cellarman's reserve IPA with Honeydew Melon (7% ABV | 65 IBU): Single-hop IPA with German Hull Melon hops infused with the complimentary flavors of raw honeydew melon.

Peticolas Brewing Company

Sledge Hammer (11.5% ABV): Previously only available at the brewery, this triple imperial red ale has been described as Velvet Hammer on steroids.

Operation Collaboration (8% ABV | 75 IBU): The brewery's IPA collaboration with Green Flash dry-hopped with the same experimental hop varieties used to brew the beer (#07270 and #06277).

Rabbit Hole Brewing Company

Ethiopian Rapture (5.7% ABV | 33 IBU): Rapture Fusion Brown Ale cask-conditioned with Ethiopian coffee from Mystical Coffee to add rich, complex coffee flavors.

Simcoe and Six (6% ABV | 69 IBU): 10/6 English Pale Ale cask-conditioned with Simcoe to add distinctive grapefruit and pine notes typical of American-style pale ales to the aroma of this traditional English brew.

Rahr & Sons Brewing Company

Oak Aged Regulator (8.5% ABV | 30 IBU): The brewery's limited-release doppelbock aged on toasted American oak spirals.

Iron Joe (8% ABV | 35 IBU): Iron Thistle infused with Noir cold brew coffee from Fort Worth's Avoca Coffee Roasters.

Real Ale Brewing Company

19th Anniversary Baltic Porter (7.7% ABV | 34 IBU): Malt-forward with the focus on dark malt character, this porter is a heartier brew like the inspirational beers of the Baltic region.

Citra Dry-Hopped Full Moon Rye IPA (6.2% ABV | 50 IBU): A new take on Real Ale's original flagship, this edition is dry-hopped with Citra for a bright orange and tropical hop flavor and aroma.

Saint Arnold Brewing Company

Divine Reserve 15 (10.1% ABV | 46 IBU): Originally brewed as Divine Reserve 5, DR15 has a rich, malty body full of coffee and chocolate flavors and a spiciness derived from the combination of hops and high alcohol.

Divine Reserve 14 (10% ABV | 30 IBU): A Belgian Strong Golden Ale brewed with the goal of making a Belgian/American hybrid using west coast American hops and rye malt to emulate the fruit and spices often found in Belgian beers.

Monday, April 6, 2015

New Holland partners with Andrews for North Texas distribution

Image credit: New Holland Brewing

Bringing yet another long-standing rumor to fruition, Andrews Distributing today announced it has entered into a partnership to deliver the products of New Holland Brewing to North Texas.

Based in Holland, Michigan, New Holland Brewing was founded in 1997 by Brett VanderKamp. Joined by partners Dave White and Fred Bueltmann, they and the rest of the New Holland team work to produce "beers and spirits that are works of art" that they hope will "inspire consumers in their own lives."

Regarding their entry into the Lone Star State, Adam Lambert, vice president of sales for New Holland, said the brewery looks forward to expanding to the large craft beer market Texas has to offer. As for their decision to sign on with Andrews, he goes on to say, "Andrews is a great cultural fit with New Holland, and we know their team will execute this next step in our growth strategy with great care and attention to detail. We look forward to sharing New Holland's 'Stop and Taste' way of life with Texas beer lovers."

Mike Machul, Andrews brand manager for the brewery, echoed similar sentiments in expressing his company's eagerness to expand their craft portfolio with this well-known brand. "We are very excited to bring the good people of North Texas the world class brands New Holland produces. We anticipate a great response and look forward to years of success together."

Andrews will launch the New Holland portfolio in North Texas on May 4, 2015. Initial shipments are expected to include the following beers from the brewery's year-round lineup: Dragon's Milk (barrel-aged stout), Mad Hatter IPA, Monkey King Saison and Full Circle (kölsch-style beer). Seasonal beers will be made available as well, starting with White Hatter, a Belgian-style white pale ale.

Brewery representatives will be in the Metroplex during the week of launch to attend events and help introduce the brand to local consumers. A full list of events will be posted online at Until then, you can learn more about New Holland by visiting their website at

Friday, April 3, 2015

Franconia and Beeler Farms headline Pork & Pint Night at Ten 50 BBQ, April 9

Image credits: Ten50 BBQ, Franconia Brewing Co., Beeler's Pure Pork

Having been in the restaurant business for roughly 40 years, there probably isn't a whole lot that Larry Lavine hasn't seen when it comes to the field of food and drink. He founded Chili's back in 1975, but nowadays he's in the barbecue business as the man behind Ten 50 BBQ in Richardson.

Ten 50 opened in August 2014, something I reported on here during opening day as I offered up a quick synopsis of the new venture's craft beer offerings. Having an array of better beer, as you might imagine, is something Lavine hopes people will take notice of and see as an added feature. "We'll always be a restaurant first," he says, "but we've got twenty-four taps, which is more than a lot of similar places have, and when people come in I want them to know that they can get a good beer."

With that in mind, Ten 50 has begun taking steps in an effort to get its craft beer program a little more notice. A weekly pint night/glassware giveaway was instituted in December, which currently runs on Thursdays, starting at 4 p.m. As for what there is to drink, while Lavine admits he sells a fair number of macros, the availability of brands like Deep Ellum, Real Ale, Franconia and Rahr & Sons, insure customers have the option of pairing a pint of Texas beer with true Texas barbecue.

Along those lines, Ten 50 is hosting a special beer and barbecue event featuring brews from Franconia and meat from Beeler's Pure Pork. What will make the evening unique is the fact that the two companies have quite a few things in common. Both Franconia and Beeler Farms are built on long-standing family traditions. Franconia founder Dennis Wehrmann traces his brewing heritage to his great, great grandfather's brewery in the early 1800s, while it was Tim Beeler's great, great grandfather that started raising pigs on the family farmstead in 1846. Not only that, both men are descended from German ancestry.

Now, the companies will come together for Pork and Pint Night at Ten 50, which happens Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m. Beeler and Franconia Brand Manager Bobby Brown will be on hand to tell the stories of each company, while attendees enjoy dinner and a flight of four Franconia beers. The meal will include slow-smoked pork, St. Louis ribs, Mac 'n Cheese, pinto beans and house-made banana pudding, with flights consisting of Franconia Amber, Wheat, Lemondrop Pilsner and Tripel Dunkel.

Cost is $25 per person and seating is limited. Call 972-234-1050 to make reservations.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meet the family at Bitter Sisters in Addison, March 28

Beer is ready to be served at Bitter Sisters Brewery
in Addison (Brooks Whittington).
It's been nearly a year since owner/brewmaster Matt Ehinger let it be known that he intended to open Bitter Sister Brewery in the City of Addison. Originally planning to open in late summer 2014, it's taken a little longer than expected for the project to come to fruition, but Ehinger says he's just a few finishing touches away from being ready for the brewery's soft opening this weekend.

Commenting on what it took to finally get to this point, Ehinger can't single out anything specific that led to the extended timeline, it was simply a matter of working through the process. While the bulk of the brewing equipment arrived in May of last year, construction didn't begin until September due to delays in obtaining a building permit. Add to that having to work around the holiday season, and it's easy to understand how the finish line became more of a moving target.

Now brewing full-time, Bitter Sisters becomes only the second packaging brewery to exist in Addison, and the city's fifth brewing operation overall. It follows Humperdinks, which no longer brews at the Addison location, and now-closed names from the past like the Addison Brewing Company (1989) , Hoffbrau Steaks and Brewery (1995-2001) and the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery (1995-2001). Based on that, in some ways you might say that Bitter Sisters is looking to succeed where others have failed. The market was different back then, though, as Ehinger himself can attest based on his own experience brewing professionally in Oklahoma during the late 1990s.

As for the here and now, the family-run business named after Ehinger's wife and her two sisters occupies an 8,500 square foot space on the northeast corner of Surveyor Boulevard and Belt Line Road. You'd never guess the size of place based on the view from the parking lot, but there is more than enough room to move around. The production area takes up about 7,000 square feet, giving Ehinger the ability to at least double and perhaps as much as triple his current capacity in the future. At present, he's working off of a thirty-barrel brewing system, with fermenters both inside and out of cold storage in order to implement his plan to brew a lineup evenly split between ales and lagers.

On why he's looking to make lagers a focal point of his portfolio, Ehinger explains that it mostly has to do with the recognition of fact that this is Texas, and Texans have traditionally liked a certain type of beer. Part of it has to do with the climate, of course, and wanting to have a stable of light-bodied brews available for warm weather drinking, but at the same time he's thought about certain cultural aspects as well. In particular, he references early Czech and German settlers who brought their lager beer recipes with them as they immigrated largely to the central portions of the state. In other words, Texans have been drinking lagers for well over a hundred years, and old traditions die hard.

Whichever your prefer, Ehinger plans to have as many as eight beers pouring in the taproom, with selections comprised of year-round staples, quarterly seasonals and brewery exclusives. As of now, he's got three beers ready to go, each of which will be a Bitter Sisters standard going forward. Included among these is Busy Body Blonde Lager (5.9% ABV), a clean and slightly sweet Munich-style Helles, and Cat Fight IPA (6.7% ABV), a classic take on craft beer's most popular style which puts more emphasis on hop flavor and aroma than it does on overall bitterness. Then there's Knock Out Irish Red (8.1% ABV), a beer which is "imperial" in nature, but much different than what you might expect given other imperial reds around town. Brewed with an infusion of chocolate malt, it's a dark and malty beer with a chewy palate and enough underlying warmth that it's probably more of a sipper than is typical for the style.

Looking ahead, Ehinger plans to have a limited barrel program, likely opting for something other than bourbon casks short-term given that they are getting more difficult to obtain. He's leaning towards using rum barrels as of now, perhaps to give a beer like Knock Out a little added punch. As for packaging, a canning line is in the long-term plan, but he sees such an addition to be at least a year down the road. For now, he's focused on establishing his brand and his beers in and around the North Texas craft beer community.

Beginning on Saturday, March 28, the taproom at Bitter Sisters will be open weekly from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., with tours at 1 and 2 p.m. Evening hours on weekdays will be set sometime in the not-too-distant future. In addition, in the coming days you'll also be able to find the brewery's beers at the Addison Flying Saucer, Craft and Growler, Londoner Frisco, Lone Star Taps & Caps, Pie 314 and LUCK.

Bitter Sisters Brewery
15103 Surveyor Boulevard