Tuesday, March 3, 2015

29th Annual Bluebonnet Brew-Off to be held March 20-21

Image credit: Bluebonnet Brew-Off
After having long been established as one of the largest homebrew competitions in the country, the Bluebonnet Brew-Off returns for its twenty-ninth year on March 20-21.

For years, the Bluebonnet has staged their annual get together at a local hotel. This year, however, the festivities will be held at the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas. According to a press release, the move was made in response to the "recent growth of interest in homebrewing and local craft beer. The change in venue should allow many more visitors to enjoy the event, with greater participation from both local and national craft brewers, [as well as] beer related vendors."

Activities associated with the Bluebonnet include technical discussions, pub crawls, the ever-popular Commercial Beer Sampling and a keynote address by Justin Crossley of The Brewing Network. This all leads up to the Competition Awards Ceremony, which occurs on Saturday evening. In addition, this year the Rabbit Hole Brewing Company has been named the Official Brewery of the 2015 Bluebonnet Brew-Off. In honor of this recognition, the Justin-based brewery will brew and release a commercial batch of the beer named Best in Show.

Tickets for the Friday night Commercial Beer Sampling and keynote speaker are $25, which includes a commemorative tasting glass and program. A full weekend ticket, which adds access to most things going on Saturday, may be purchased for $35. For more information, or to get your tickets, visit the official website at www.bluebonnetbrewoff.org.

Attendees may also book accommodations for a special rate at the nearby Dallas Marriott Las Colinas. Rooms are available for $101/night, but you must make reservations by Wednesday, March 4. Click here for a link to the online reservations page.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Cedar Creek moving operations, plans Memorial Day Grand Re-Opening

(Left-to-right): Andy & Shalene Jacobson, Head Brewer Damon Lewis,
and owners Cindy & Jim Elliot (Cedar Creek Brewery).

In yet another example of the seemingly unstoppable growth of the craft beer industry in and around North Texas, the Cedar Creek Brewery of Seven Points has announced it is moving operations.

According to a press release, with prior year production reaching 1600 barrels and a goal of brewing upwards of 3000 barrels in 2015, the current building is simply no longer adequate. For this reason, construction began this week on a new space at 336 E. Cedar Creek Parkway, just a few doors down from the brewery's current address. After renovations are complete, the new building will better suit the growing company's needs. In addition, with nearly two acres of land to work with, there is plenty of room for additional expansion.

Cedar Creek's new location in Seven Points, TX. (Cedar Creek Brewery)

Seen as a weekend destination for locals and out-of-town visitors, the brewery's current taproom has become a popular hangout since Cedar Creek opened in the summer of 2012. The new location will provide a better interior layout, with more restrooms and an expanded bar able to accommodate 16 taps. Not only that, but the brewery's biergarten is expected to triple in size and there are even plans to offer food service from an expanded kitchen sometime this year.

Talking about the history attached to the new building - which includes time spent as a skating rink and once being used as a filming location for the 1981 Robert Duvall film, Tender Mercies - brewery owner Jim Elliot says, "There is great history and awesome memories for many local people of the building we will be remodeling. Our intent is to keep as much of the old place as possible and re-purpose and reuse as much of the interior as we can."

Commenting further, Elliot adds, "I am very excited about the new location. The City of Seven Points has been a big supporter of our business and has partnered with us to make this move."

Cedar Creek plans to host a Grand Re-Opening on Memorial Day Weekend. Details will be revealed at a later date.

A taste of Ranger Creek's new Texas Bourbon Barrel series

The first of Ranger Creek's new Bourbon
Barrel line of beers (Brian Brown).

When Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling opened its doors in late 2010, it became the first business of its kind in the State of Texas. Being part brewery, part distillery, it was only natural to assume that barrel-aged beers would become a mainstay of their portfolio. Indeed, in the years that have followed, the brewing side of the business has put out a handful of these types of beers, but up until now there hasn't been anything along the lines of a recurring barrel-aged offering. That's expected to change, however, with the introduction of the brewery's new Texas Bourbon Barrel series.

According to co-owner Mark McDavid, a regular or year-round bourbon barrel beer has always been part of the plan. Sharing what could be thought of as a company motto, he says he and his fellow partners are "most intrigued and excited by products that showcase the relationship between beer and whiskey." As to why develop a standalone series now, as opposed to in the past, it has as much to do with timing as it does a desire to build on the success of prior barrel-aged brews like Small Batch Series Nos. 4 and 5.

At the same time, McDavid explains that the idea also has roots in the belief that "the coolness and uniqueness of using our own barrels just wasn't being highlighted enough." Of course, Ranger Creek's ultimate goal is to one day be able to use in-house barrels exclusively when aging their beer. "We do that as much as possible now," he adds, "but we're still small so we need to supplement our own barrels." For the Texas Bourbon Barrel series debut, that meant adding Four Roses vessels to a mix that included their own Rimfire and .44 Rye barrels.

An Imperial Brown kicked off the series in late January, with the underlying style choice being motivated by a wish to do something other than yet another bourbon barrel stout. "We like to do things that people recognize, but do them a little differently to keep people interested," McDavid says, "so we thought an Imperial brown ale would be delicious, but also intriguing." Based on public reception, consumers would seem to agree.

As for my own impressions, I found the beer to be sweet and warm with a nice bit of nuance to go with what most would consider a slightly bourbon-forward brew. The primary flavors consist of toffee, caramel, roasted malt and dark fruit, but there are secondary notes of oak and a nutty character which develops over time as well. A vanilla essence fills out the finish, with mild carbonation and a soft palate working to enhance the overall drinkability.

From a technical point of view, Ranger Creek's Imperial Brown is strong, but it maintains balance and there's not a feeling that the barrel influence overtakes the beer. Then again, the primary reason to brew an "imperialized" version of a brown ale prior to barrel aging is to ensure just such a thing doesn't happen. As far as execution goes, I think Ranger Creek has done well here in that regard.

Looking ahead, Ranger Creek is testing new recipes before settling on what will be the next Texas Bourbon Barrel release. Whatever that beer turns out to be, the brewery hopes to have it out by mid-to-late summer. Until then, take note that bottles of Imperial Brown are still on sale at some retail locations around North Texas. As always, check with your local bottle for availability.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Meddlesome Moth announces Alpine Beer Co. dinner with founder Pat McIlhenny

Image credits: Alpine Beer Co., Meddlesome Moth

By now you've probably heard that products from the California-based Alpine Beer Company are headed to Texas, the result of an agreement the brewery signed late last year to have their beers packaged by the Green Flash Brewing Company.

Scheduled to arrive early next month, one of your first chances to try Alpine's offerings will come at the Meddlesome Moth during a beer dinner hosted by brewery founder Pat McIlhenny on March 9 at 6 p.m. Only 100 seats will be made available, with the cost set at $75pp, including gratuity. Reserve your spot by purchasing tickets at Eventbrite or by calling the Moth at 214-629-7900.

Meet and Greet

Alpine Ale - Pale Ale

First Course

Hoppy Birthday - Dry-Hopped Pale Ale

Day boat scallop ceviche
with hop sofrito, Peruvian pepper, chive emulsion, pink peppercorn.

Second Course

McIlhenny's Red Ale - Irish Red

Gruyere fondue
with Purple Haze® goat cheese, pickled Medjool date, sourdough grain crackers.

Third Course

Nelson - Golden Rye IPA

Coconut husk-smoked Hawaiian sea bass
with cucumber anmitsu, lime leaf, furikake.

Fourth Course

Duet - West Coast IPA

Wild boar chop and truffle sausage
with forest mushroom, pretzel spoon bread, huckleberry orange demi.

Fifth Course

Captain Stout - American Stout

Mole-spice chocolate cake
with mascarpone mousse, cocoa nib, sizzling rice crisp.