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.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cedar Creek opts for brewpub license

Coming up on their second anniversary, the Cedar Creek Brewery in Seven Points is making changes to the way it does business. Looking to leverage recent revisions to laws regulating breweries in the State of Texas, Cedar Creek announced today that they have switched to a brewpub license, which will allow them to sell packaged beer to the public from this point forward.

From the press release:

"In its early days, visitors to Cedar Creek Brewery paid for a tour that included a souvenir glass and free beer samples. As Texas law prohibited breweries from directly taking money for beer to be consumed on-premise, this was common practice in many Texas breweries.

In 2013, changes to Texas legislation allowed manufacturing breweries to begin selling beer for on-site consumption, a change that Cedar Creek Brewery took advantage of. A climate-controlled taproom was built that has become a popular hangout for locals and weekenders alike, and has helped foster a real sense of community.

Owner Jim Elliott made the decision to change to a brewpub license in early 2014 after numerous requests from customers to buy packaged goods at the brewery.

'This licensing change allows us to sell beer 'to go' directly from our brewery,' said Elliott. 'This makes it so much more convenient for customers, and with margins being tight in some markets, this certainly does help our bottom line.'

The brewery is currently selling four-packs of its year-round and special release products, with plans to add refillable Party Pigs to the lineup in coming months. With the brewery being so close to Cedar Creek Lake, a popular weekend destination for Dallasites, Elliott anticipates this addition will be a popular, eco-friendly option for craft beer lovers in the lake area." 

Those looking to pick up Cedar Creek brews to take home can do so this weekend while attending the brewery's 2nd Anniversary Bash.  The two-day event, happening Friday and Saturday (July 4-5), will feature food, live music and the return of Cedar Creek's summer seasonal witbier, Repartee.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Best Little Brewfest not so little anymore

Image credit: Cloud 9 Charities

If we're going by crowd numbers alone, the Best Little Brewfest in Texas may be in line for a name change. Put on by Cloud 9 Charities, co-founders Kim Cloud and Daynor Stinson estimate this past Saturday's event in Old Town Lewisville drew upwards of 4000 people (including volunteers), up from around 1200 in 2013.

As for breweries, by my count the total number in attendance and pouring beer was roughly the same as last year. Among those not sampling (per TABC regulations) were no fewer than four breweries in development, each hoping to be up and running within the next year. That list of names included Audacity Brew House, Four Bullets Brewery, Frisco City Grainworks and the Little Elm Brewing Company.  Combine them with a roster of brewers which included over two dozen others from Texas, and you couldn't help but notice a distinct local/regional focus, which was just fine by me. It wasn't just breweries, either, as winemakers and distillers hailing from the Lone Star State were on hand sampling their wares as well.

Soon-to-be brewers definitely drew some attention, as did those recently licensed and serving beer for only the first or second time. Crowds formed around the Collective Brewing Project's tap-ready delivery van, as well as booths manned by Shannon Brewing and the Texas Ale Project. While Collective is already making deliveries in Fort Worth, Shannon Carter indicated his eponymous brewery is just weeks away from debuting, with the Texas Ale Project expected to follow in Dallas sometime late summer.

For me, as always, the focus was on the new and unfamiliar. So, as you might imagine, I was more a less a fixture at the booths of the three brewers mentioned above. Between them, they brought along a total of ten new tastes, and while I won't give you a beer-by-beer account of all of them, I will comment on those I found to be notable.

Shannon Irish Red:  The one thing I've been most curious about regarding the brewery under construction in Keller is the fire-brewed process they were planning to install. If this beer is any indication of what it can do, I'm already a fan. Shannon's Irish Red is appropriately malty, but what's distinctive about it is the deep, lingering caramel flavor that lasts well into the finish. This kettle caramelization is just the sort of thing Carter said I should expect when he first described his approach to me earlier this year.

Collective Pale Galaxy: Up until Saturday, if you had offered me anything along the lines of "session IPA," I probably would suggest you just go water the plants with it. Why? Because, to me, most of them are so lacking in body, they taste like nothing more than a glass of hop water. Then again, if you want to lower the alcohol, you need less fermentable sugars...which means less malt...which means less balance, and so on. Well, if first impressions mean anything, Pale Galaxy might be an exception to the rule. This brew was bright and fresh, with notes of tropical fruit and citrus to go along with what for others has been unattainable for the style...that being an ample body.

Texas Ale Kaiser Wilhelm: It seems this has been the summer of the Berliner Weisse, with a number of Texas breweries trotting out the somewhat forgotten style over the past few months. Being the latest to throw their hat in the ring, Texas Ale offered up an "imperialized" version of the German specialty. While it did have some added heft, there was no other indication of the beer's strength. In fact, had brewmaster Jan Matysiak not pointed out the ABV, I might have never known. In any case, the beer's upfront notes of wheat grain were coupled with a more subtle than sharp sour character, which I found to be quite enjoyable. Matysiak and brewery co-founder Brent Thompson suggested this and other beers they served were one-offs created just for the festival. At least in this case, let's hope they reconsider.

Rounding out the event was the Professional Brewer's Competition which pitted 88 entries up against each other in a variety of BJCP-inspired categories.  Among those, the Best in Show prize went to Grapevine Craft Brewery for Sir William's English Brown Ale. As for other winners, check the Best Little website or Facebook page for a complete list once it's posted.

Finally, seeing as how all of the proceeds of this event benefit the Alzheimer's association and teen suicide prevention, it's worth noting that if you weren't able to attend you can still contribute to the cause. Visit the Cloud 9 Charities website and hit the "Donate Now" tab at the top of the page to help make a difference.