Friday, April 19, 2019

Diversity, growth among topics discussed at 2019 CBC

The 2019 Craft Brewers Conference was held at The Colorado Convention
Center in Denver, Colorado (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Arriving for the 2019 Craft Brewer's Conference (CBC), held last week in Denver, Colorado, immediate concerns went beyond the state of the brewing industry to that of an impending blizzard. Luckily the blizzard lacked bluster, at least in and around the city, allowing attendees to move about freely between conference seminars and downtown Denver breweries.

Naturally, one of the gathering's main draws was the Brewers Association's annual State of the Industry address given by Paul Gatza, senior vice president of the professional brewing division, and Bart Watson, chief economist.


According to data presented, over 7000 breweries operated all or part of 2018, with 1049 openings and 219 closures occurring (an all-time high).

That translates to a national closure rate of around 3%. Comparatively, the closure rate in North Texas was 2.67% for 2018, with 2 closures among 75 breweries operating all or part of last year.


Looking further at the chart above, the total number of breweries in the U.S. has nearly doubled in just four years. And, more are on the horizon. The federal government has issued over 10,000 active TTB permits, which means there are least 2500 or more breweries in planning across the country.

Locally, the brewery count in North Texas stands at 75 (breweries, brewpubs), with well over 30 others in development.


Regarding growth, craft beer grew only 4% overall for 2018, essentially remaining flat compared to 2017.

Looking at individual segments, breweries saw 16% growth, with brewpubs (restaurants with brewing operations) landing at 13%, and regional breweries staying stagnant at 0%.



Commenting on the results, Watson said he believes growth numbers in the mid-single digits aren't likely to change much unless brewers work to attract new drinkers. Along those lines, he and Gatza suggested breweries could try and appeal to other types of consumers by exploring things like beer hybridization (beer/wine hybrids, beer mixers, more barrel-aged options), adding distilling operations, and the use of cannabis.

Expanding craft beer's demographic* was another avenue discussed, with the topic of diversity being center stage during the conference. A panel led by Brewers Association diversity ambassador, Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, focused on strategies aimed at adding fresh faces and voices to the craft beer conversation, whether that be through brewery partnerships with community organizations or by sourcing new talent into the industry's workforce.

A key point brought up in those proceedings was that founders and brewers (i.e. those invested in the company) should endeavor to engage groups they seek to draw into their business. Not only that, it should be done in such a way that it's not just about checking a box to say you've reached out. Sponsoring a group's philanthropic effort is one thing, but actually participating and working together sends a stronger message of community and inclusion.

As for other items of interest, additional data specific to Texas was presented in two side seminars:
  • While going over broader numbers related to pricing and promotion, Nielsen shared data on how displays in Texas are affecting sales. In this case, a retailer having a display presence with lower price discount incentives (as opposed to having no display with a higher discount) resulted in more volume sales. The smaller discount also allowed for improved margin.
  • An analysis done by Audra Gaiziunas, owner of Brewed for her Ledger - an accounting/finance/strategy firm for the beer industry, tracked the impact of working with a tour operator on a Texas brewery's bottom line. The tour operator paid the brewery $5 per head for a tasting and tour, while also providing attendees with a free beer token for use on a later visit. Data showed guests returning to redeem the token bought an additional 1.2 beers on average, resulting in a gross margin increase through the taproom of 2%.



* The typical craft beer drinker is a white male, 21-34 years old, with an average household income of $87,000 per year.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Future breweries featured at LUCKapalooza V

Image credit: LUCK.

Simply put, drinking local is how things are done at LUCK in Trinity Groves. Yet, the approach there doesn't just involve supporting those breweries that supply the restaurant's everyday beer lineup. Indeed, it's also about helping to get the word out on up-and-coming brewing companies yet to join the professional ranks.

LUCK goes about the latter by way of events like LUCKapalooza. Billed as a celebration of beer and music, the gathering differs from homebrew competitions that bring together both strict hobbyists and aspiring professionals. Instead, LUCKapalooza strives to offer patrons a taste of what's to come from companies actively working to open their doors in Dallas-Fort Worth.

The festivities were first held in 2015, and since then, over a dozen breweries have appeared at LUCKapalooza prior to going on to pour professionally (two others are opening soon). For 2019, eight more would-be wort wranglers attended the fifth annual event, each looking to add their name to the crop of contenders vying for the crown of next great North Texas craft brewery. Regarding where things stand on these projects, status updates are provided below.

  • Soul Fire Brewing Co. is currently under construction in Roanoke, with the brewery going into an existing structure that will house a food hall.
  • Also set to occupy existing structures, construction starts are pending at False Idol Brewing of North Richland Hills (currently making beer under license at Oak Cliff Brewing Co.) and Vector Brewing of Dallas.
  • Siren Rock Brewing Co. is being built from the ground up in Rockwall, with those behind the operation hoping to begin moving dirt within the next few weeks. Perhaps the most ambitious undertaking listed here, plans call for a 13,000 square foot space to be situated on a 1.25-acre site.
  • Groups scouting locations: 2nd Hand Cerveceria (South Fort Worth), Murphy's Law Brew Co. (Johnson County), Village Creek Brewing Co. (Arlington), Bleshoux Brewing Co. (Dallas County).

As for a few notable beers from among the day's offerings, Bleshoux created a bit of buzz with a blue Berliner weisse called Cove Theory. Others rating highly among attendees were False Idol's Train to Valhalla English Barleywine and the beer that ended up being my personal favorite, Duotone Fruited Smoothie Sour from Vector Brewing.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

My 2019 Big Texas tasting card

Image credits: Brewvolution, Ingenious Brewing Co., Tupps Brewery, Manhattan Project Beer Co., 903 Brewers, Hemisphere Brewing Co.,
Hop & Sting Brewing Co., 3 Nations Brewing Co., Rabbit Hole Brewing, Peticolas Brewing Co., Oak Cliff Brewing Co.

Amidst Mother Nature's apparent struggle to keep the seasons straight, a beer festival broke out this past weekend in the form of the eighth annual Big Texas Beer Fest (BTBF). The meandering mercury had attendees reaching for a cold one on a warm Friday night, while Saturday's climate called for a barrel-aged stout to help stave off the chill.

Naturally, it being a beer fest, there were options aplenty for both extremes and everything in between. You could even indulge in other types of refreshment, with a variety of ciders, hard seltzers and kombucha available, not to mention the appearance of a non-alcoholic beer hustler looking to show off its new Heine.

Regarding the featured beverage, the event boasted more than 400 beers from over 90 breweries. Nearly two-thirds of those brewing companies hailed from the Lone Star State, with 50 coming from North Texas. Indeed, whereas early editions of BTBF had to lean on national brands to populate the beer list, it's now Texas brews taking center stage.

Of course, that's a function of the market more than anything else. There's no getting around the fact that changes in demand have lead to changes in the portfolios of both breweries and distributors. Many breweries aren't making the same beers compared to when they first opened, and there are fewer national brands being shipped to the local market.

As for what's popular from year to year, one need only track the trails of consumer taste. And, what better place to do that than BTBF? For, while the event has proven to be a grand showcase for products offered by the local industry, it has also served as a platform from which to witness the evolution of the local craft beer scene.

So, with that in mind, this year's collection of festival favorites is presented in a slightly different format, with a bit of background on what's behind the beers you're imbibing.

Cheers!


Haze forays

Once upon a time, the West Coast IPA was the belle of the craft beer ball. However, its popularity has waned recently in favor of the juicy and hazy IPA stylings of New England. Lines forming to sample such beers at BTBF were a testament to the shifting IPA dynamic, with breweries like Celestial Beer Works, Ingenious Brewing Co., Manhattan Project Beer Co., Turning Point Beer and Tupps Brewery serving up a variety of NEIPAs to sustained crowds around their booths.

Notable pours: Ingenious Mango Creamsicle Double FroYo, Manhattan Project 10 Nanoseconds, Tupps DDH Series 9.


Variations on a theme

At some point, rotating ingredients into a standard stout recipe became a popular thing. Stout variants help breweries keep things fresh for consumers always on the lookout for something new, and for a while Lakewood Brewing Co. cornered the market on this approach by way of The Temptress. Lately, though, other breweries have thrown their hats into the ring, with product lines being built around beers like 3 Nations Devout, 903 Sasquatch, Oak Cliff Sombre and Tupps Full Grown Man - all of which were served in one form or another at this year's BTBF.

Notable pours: 3 Nations Devout Bananas Foster, Oak Cliff Sombre - Canadian Tuxedo.


'Bung'ee jumping

Judging by options poured at BTBF, bourbon barrels are still the vessel of choice when it comes to barrel aging beers, but there were other treatments to be found on the festival floor. This year, fest-goers were able to sample beers aged in Bordeaux, clean oak, rum, tequila, white wine and (my personal favorite) brandy barrels.

Notable pours: 903 Dracarys Oak-Aged Imperial Mexican Style Stout, Hemisphere Bourbon Barrel-Aged Black Sacrament, Hop & Sting Barrel-Aged Frigid Underworld, Rabbit Hole Hatter's Revenge - Brandy Barrel-Aged Golden Strong Ale.


What's new is old again

While it almost certainly won't always be the case, it was ironic to see Peticolas Brewing Co. choose something old - a märzen - as its first "What's New" beer. A märzen is a German beer that's been around for nearly 500 years and, believe it or not, some still seek out classic styles. Perhaps what they say is true...the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Notable pour: Peticolas What's New #1: Märzen.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Four North Texas breweries earn medals at 2019 Aro Rojo

Image credit: Competencia Internacional de Cerveza Aro Rojo.

Four area breweries and a local gypsy brewer have been recognized south of the border at the 2019 Aro Rojo International Beer Competition.

Held March 26-28 in Tampico, Mexico, the Aro Rojo event aims to be an international platform for recognition of beers from around the world. In addition to those sent in from the competition's home country of Mexico, beers were submitted from South and Central America, South Korea and the United States. Entries were evaluated according to the 2015 Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines.

As for North Texas, a total of five medals were awarded to local breweries, with an additional medal of note bestowed upon a beer Dallas-based BlackMan Brewing created in collaboration with Costa Rican brewer Treintaycinco - Fabrica de Cervezas. Each of these honorees is listed below, while a complete list of winners may be found by clicking here (image at link expands to a slideshow).


Bankhead Brewing Co., Rowlett
  • Silver for Whoopee! in the Czech Premium Pale Lager category.
  • Bronze for Devil Wagon in the Munich Helles category.
  • Silver for Smoking Lit in the Historical Beer: Lichtenhainer category.
Cowtown Brewing Co., Fort Worth
  • Silver for Everybody's Doing It in the American IPA category.
HopFusion Ale Works, Fort Worth
  • Gold for Coco Anejo in the Winter Seasonal Beer category.
  • Bronze for Friday IPA in the American IPA category.

Cheers and congratulations to all!