Monday, August 18, 2014

Local pours among the pits at Ten 50

Photos by Brian Brown
I'm not saying there's a correlation, but thinking about Dallas and the surrounding area, it sure seems like the respective renaissances going on with craft beer and BBQ started around the same point in time. Perhaps it's no coincidence, then, that the two continue to come together in new BBQ ventures around town.

The latest to bring better beer to the table is the just-opened Ten 50 BBQ in Richardson. Set up along North Central Expressway just north of Arapaho, Ten 50 joins other north side notables like Frisco's 3 Stacks Smoke and Tap House and the Plano location of Lockhart Smokehouse in offering up a bevy of craft beers to pair with your pile of smoke-soaked beef.

Ordering lines run next to the pits, meaning smoke-filled clothes are in your future.
A total of 24 taps grace the side wall of an expansive bar space, which sits alongside what can only be described as a cavernous dining room. Among the handles are a half-dozen macros offset by a solitary cider and a mix of 17 different craft brews.

Opening day options included beers from five North Texas-area breweries, with selections available from Deep Ellum, Franconia, Lakewood, Rahr and Revolver. Joining locals on the board were national brands like Stone Arrogant Bastard, Ska Modus Hoperandi and Odell 90 Shilling Ale. Given the choices, I'd likely pick the Odell beer for my mealtime accompaniment, though I'd be just as likely to go with Franconia Dunkel given that beer's roasted malt undertones.

Look to the left for local brews like Rahr's Blonde and Deep Ellum IPA.
Style choices favor pales, blond ales and IPAs, with the only other dark beer besides the one from Franconia being Lakewood's ever-popular Temptress. Wording on a printed menu and the makeup of a magnet board by the register implies some beers will rotate, so I'd expect to see some slight shuffling over time. Either way, the bartender seemed more than willing to provide a sample or two for those on the fence about what to order. Speaking of which, I'd recommend ordering beers from the bar since the magnets posted in the service line don't always single out which beer is on tap from a particular brewery.

As far as the food is concerned, I'll leave a review of that aspect of the business to those more skilled in that particular art. From what I could tell, though, the place offers everything you'd expect from a BBQ joint built around a Central Texas theme.

Ten 50 BBQ
1050 North Central Expressway

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sizing up Spiegelau's new Stout glass

Image: Sampling stouts in a variety of glassware (Brian Brown)

This past April, glassware-maker Spiegelau announced the launch of the "world's first stout-specific beer glass," a drinking vessel designed in collaboration with Oregon-based Rogue Ales and the Left Hand Brewing Company of Colorado. As was the case with the successful release of their IPA model in 2013, Spiegelau took a similar approach in determining the makeup of the new glass. Hundreds of different shapes were evaluated over the course of a year, with taste testers narrowing down the choices to a number of prototypes before selecting the glass that would ultimately go into production.

Curious to see if Spiegelau's newest creation delivers on the promise of a more profound stout-drinking experience, I along with Matt Dixon of Dallas Brew Scene obtained samples from the company in order to put the product through its paces. Appropriate test subjects were chosen, which for me meant a bottle of Great Divide's Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, while Dixon opted for a classic in the form of Founders Breakfast Stout.

Compared to its predecessor, the Stout glass has a similar, though more voluminous shape than that of the IPA design. Its fuller fashioning allows it to hold just over ten percent more liquid than the IPA glass with a capacity of 21 1/6 oz. This makes for a rather weighty pour considering you can nearly empty the contents of a 22oz bomber into the glass.

Surveying the incurved rim at the top, the diameter measures 2 1/4 inches. This exactly matches that of the IPA glass, and is also on par with the incurved rim of a 10 oz snifter. Not surprisingly, like the snifter this design serves to concentrate aromas more so than say the outward flare of a tulip glass. Taking note that this effect is among the many touted features of the glass, at least in this case it would appear to live up to expectations.

In terms of other elements, product literature claims the "wide, conical bowl" provides "superior flow" to the palate "improving the taste, mouthfeel and finish of a complex stout." While we are both on board with the liquid delivery portion of that statement, some may find that the idea that it helps to "improve" the taste is somewhat harder to swallow. There's no disputing the clarity of the glass, though, as the "ultra pure quartz material" would seem to provide the "true color" appearance it promises.

Thinking about the drinking experience as a whole, honestly it doesn't seem all that different than what can be had with a snifter (my choice) or a Belgian globe glass (Dixon's choice). That said,  the only downsides we can see with Spiegelau's product might start with the price, though at roughly $20/pair (at it doesn't seem all that exorbitant compared to other "proper" glassware. Another minus might be that the Stout glass is no less dainty than its IPA brethren. Packaging boasts "improved breakage resistance," but we'd still recommend careful clinking.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Armadillo crafting 'Wunder'ous new brew

Image credit: Armadillo Ale Works (click to enlarge)

Armadillo Ale Works generated a fair bit of buzz back in May, when they announced plans had been finalized to build a brewery of their own in Denton. While a spring 2015 opening is still a ways off on the calendar, founders Bobby Mullins and Yianni Arestis are hoping to give fans of the brewery an idea of what they can expect once the new facility debuts next year.

The pair admits that the success of Brunch Money had a lot to do with their decision to release a line of limited-edition brews with the aforementioned goal in mind.  As Arestis explains, when "customers tell you it's their favorite beer of the year...that gives you the confidence to keep taking risks."  Statements like that have reinforced their vision of what they want the brewery to be known for, which is one capable of producing quality brews that are both innovative and unique.

Those are words that will most certainly describe the beer they're brewing this weekend, but just in case you'd prefer a different turn of phrase, allow me to suggest 'summertime refresher.' In fact, that was the goal for Armadillo's newest beer from the start.  With seasonal temperatures in mind, they decided their next release "would have to be a combination of the most refreshing fruit and the most refreshing type of beer." What instantly came to mind was the idea of making a watermelon kölsch.

Due out in mid-August, WunderMelon will be a traditional German-style kölsch brewed with malted barley and a touch of wheat. Real watermelon juice will be used to provide the supplemental flavor, and plans are to add it directly to the fermenter. Mullins says that incorporating the fruit later in the brewing cycle should help maintain freshness and make the beer really pop.  Test batches, he reveals, have resulted in a "dry and crisp beer, with a slightly tart fruitiness." The fruit juice, moreso than the hops used, lends a hint of bitterness on the back end to help balance the sweetness upfront.

Finishing out with a 5.2% ABV and 26 IBU, WunderMelon promises to be a light, easy-drinker, which should make it a great choice for the sure to be sweltering days ahead. At least that's the impression one gets when Arestis says, "I can't think of anything I'd want to drink more on a hot Texas summer day."

WunderMelon will be available on tap and in 22 oz bombers. Launch parties are scheduled at venues across the Metroplex, with special edition WunderMelon pint glasses expected to be available at each location:

August 15 at 7 p.m. - Oak St. Drafthouse, Denton
August 16 at 7 p.m. - Craft and Growler, Dallas
August 16 at 7 p.m. - Brewed, Fort Worth

Also take note that a batch of Brunch Money is rolling out to retail as we speak. As before, though, quantities are limited, meaning stores may sell out quickly.