Monday, December 11, 2017

Then and now: Comparing Plano's newest brewery to the one that started it all

Unlawful Assembly is the third brewing entity to exist in Plano (Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Nearly 30 years after the last production brewery operated in the city, Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co. (UABC) has opened its doors in Plano. The brewery exists on the third floor of Legacy Food Hall, in the new Legacy West development.

Indeed, while breweries have popped up in all corners of the Metroplex, Plano has seemed like a forgotten city. Other than an offshoot of the Gordon Biersch brewpub chain (just across the Dallas North Tollway from UABC, in the Shops at Legacy), Plano has been bereft of a dedicated brewing operation since Texas' first ever microbrewery, Reinheitsgebot Brewing Co. (affectionately known as Reinbo), closed in 1989.

Of course, things are a lot different now than they were in the 1980s. While UABC's setup screams modern-day industrial facility, getting Reinbo up and running meant scavenging and/or inventing the equipment used to make its beer.

For example, UABC's system consists of a newly-minted 30-barrel brewhouse, along with 21 large-scale tanks situated for use in the cellar and production space.

Unlawful Assembly's three-vessel, 30-barrel brewhouse and an impressive lineup of tanks can be
viewed on the second and third floors of Legacy Food Hall (Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

And Reinbo? Its founders outfitted their brewery by converting used dairy equipment for things like a lauter tun and fermentation vessels, making a grain grinder from scratch, and retrofitting a household water heater to act as a hot liquor tank.

At Reinbo, dairy tanks served as fermentation vessels (left), grain grinders were made by hand (middle) and
water heaters posed as hot liquor tanks (right). Photos courtesy of Russ Klisch, president of Lakefront Brewery in Wisconsin.

Regarding the types of beer made by each company, as the name suggests, Reinbo's products followed the German Purity Law - i.e. the brewing ingredients consisted of only malt, hops, water and yeast. The brewery's two main beers were a pale lager called Collin County Pure Gold, and a dark lager called Collin County Black Gold.

As for UABC, Plano's newest brewery has already gone on record as saying that it "won't be afraid to break a few brewing rules." In other words, it won't be guided by such limitations. One of UABC's beers proves that to some extent, considering Idol Time, a passion fruit pineapple wheat, was among the brewery's opening day pours.

Other beers on tap at UABC, at least for now, come together to form a fairly standard craft beer lineup. A brown ale, a pale, an amber lager and a witbier make up the list of what's to be had currently, but further experimentation is promised. Should that come to pass, Plano residents can look forward to a more diverse range of offerings, especially compared to what was being made in the city more than 30 years ago.

Either way, it's interesting to see how the industry has changed since the times of the first microbrewery to exist in the city, the region and the state. Reinbo may be a thing of the past, but the efforts of those behind it laid the early groundwork that allows breweries like Unlawful Assembly to be a part of the future.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Texas Ale Project to release The Caucasian 2017

Image courtesy of Texas Ale Project.

Next week, Texas Ale Project of Dallas will release the 2017 edition of its popular white Russian imperial stout, The Caucasian.

First arriving on the scene in 2015, The Caucasian (9.0% ABV, 75 IBU) is brewed with vanilla beans and cold brewed coffee, prior to being aged on toasted American oak. The vanilla beans used in the beer are sourced from the Bourbon Island of Madagascar, while the coffee is a selection chosen in collaboration with a Dallas-based roasting company.

“Once again, we partnered with Michael Wyatt at Full City Rooster to choose the perfect beans to enhance the flavors and bring the right acidity and sweetness to the malts of this year’s stout," says Brent Thompson, co-founder of Texas Ale Project. "After several tastings, we decided on a bean from the Palo Blanco Estate in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala.”

This year's vintage of The Caucasian will debut during an event at Texas Ale Project's facility in the Design District on Tuesday, December 12 from 6-10 p.m. The evening will also feature tappings of The Caucasian 2016, The Caucasian 2015 and The Caucasian Bourbon Barrel-Aged 2016, not to mention a special food pairing and glassware presentation.

“To add a decadent tasting element to the release, we partnered with local chocolatier, Chocolate Secrets, to create a chocolate-infused truffle in the shape of a 'Dude' mustache for customers to pair with the beer,” reveals Kat Thompson, CEO of Texas Ale Project. “We also selected a unique and playful glass this year that reflects White Russian cocktail-style barware to commemorate this release.”

In addition, Texas Ale Project has obtained nine bourbon barrels from Knob Creek, one of Jim Beam's small-batch brands, for use in aging a portion of the 2017 release. As for when the finished beer will be available, The Caucasian is expected to age for around 10 months, so look for the barrel-aged version to appear in the fall of next year.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Oak Highlands enlists Jack Daniel's for 2017 BBA Chump Change

Image courtesy of Oak Highlands Brewery.

Initially teased in a Facebook post over the summer, Oak Highlands Brewery has partnered with Jack Daniel's Tennessee distillery for the 2017 release of Bourbon Barrel Aged Chump Change (11.3% ABV, 28 IBU).

Led by Kevin Sanders, a.k.a. "The Barrel Man," representatives from Jack Daniel's hand-delivered 34 spent barrels to Oak Highlands in late June, after which those casks were filled with the brewery's seasonal imperial black saison. Now, six months later, those barrels are being emptied in preparation for the beer's taproom debut, something set to occur on Saturday, December 16.

Rolling barrels into the brewhouse with "The Barrel Man" (Oak Highlands Brewery).

In addition, Bourbon Barrel Aged Chump Change will be packaged for the first time for sale in four-packs of 12-ounce cans.

"Previously, all of our barrel-aged releases have been draft only," says Brad Mall, co-founder of Oak Highlands. "In working with Jack Daniel's on this year's release of Bourbon Barrel Chump Change, we decided to broaden the reach and also offer it in four-pack cans."

Bourbon Barrel Aged Chump Change is the first barrel-aged brew
Oak Highlands has packaged for retail sale (Oak Highlands Brewery).

Quantities of the packaged beer will be very limited, with only 275 cases to be available. Consumers can expect the beer to start showing up at both retail and draft accounts during the week of December 18.

A number of joint launch events with Jack Daniel's are also being planned, according to Mall. Details on those festivities will follow in the coming weeks, so be sure to keep up with the brewery's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter) for the most up-to-date details.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - December 6, 2017 edition

In the past, the arrival of the holiday season has meant a slowdown on the craft beer newsfront, but that's apparently not the case this year. As seen below, a lot has happened in the three weeks since the last Conspectus, with a big distribution announcement heading up a new list of items that includes the usual roundup of recently released beers, along with updates on the status on four North Texas breweries in development.


Collective joins up with Shelton Brothers

Shelton Brothers, Inc., a Massachusetts-based import/export firm, has added The Collective Brewing Project to its portfolio. According to a blog post on Collective's website, the Fort Worth brewery will work with Shelton Brothers to deliver its beer to festivals and events it plans to attend in the coming year.

Snap up the latest release from Wild Acre

Now in stores, Snap'd is the latest beer to emerge from Wild Acre Brewing Co. of Fort Worth. Billed as a gingerbread strong ale, the seasonal offering packs a fair amount of punch, with an ABV of nearly 8%. Look for it in six-packs of 12-ounce cans.

Nick the newest Full Grown variety on tap at Tupps

Tupps Brewery of McKinney has unveiled its newest Full Grown Man variety in the form of Full Grown Nick (12.1% ABV). Brewed with holiday spices, Full Grown Nick is the third seasonal treatment of Full Grown Man Imperial Stout, following brethren brews Full Grown Hombre and Full Grown Jack. Find it in four-packs of 12-ounce cans.

Deep Ellum flies its Freak Flag

Freak Flag (7.8% ABV, 14 IBU), the initial offering in Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s Barrelhouse line, has been released in 500mL bottles. The beer is a sour red ale that's spent 18 months in red wine barrels, and it's the first fully barrel-fermented brew to produced by the company. Freak Flag's release also kicks off the brewery's Solera program, an initiative that involves the fractional blending of different vintages over time to create a beer that gets older every time you drink it.

Also from Deep Ellum, a new IPA variety pack is available at retail, containing Deep Ellum IPA, Dreamcrusher, Easy Peasy IPA and the brewery's new White IPA.

Future brewery blurbs

The TABC has approved the licenses for New Main Brewing Co. of Pantego and Parker County Brewing Co. of Willow Park. Both entities are currently under construction with early 2018 target dates.

After many years in development, there's finally a light at the end of the tunnel for Steam Theory Brewing Co. of Dallas. Construction on the future brewpub's site in Trinity Groves began in November, with the latest update projecting an opening to occur as early as April of next year.

The Corsicana City Council has cleared the way for work to begin on Navarro County Brewing Co., after a variance was approved for a proposed site on December 1. Set to be the city's first brewery, Navarro County Brewing will be located at 321 W. 6th Ave. in Corsicana.

Image credits (top to bottom): Collective Brewing Project, Wild Acre Brewing Co., Tupps Brewery, Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Parker County Brewing Co., New Main Brewing Co., Steam Theory Brewing Co., Navarro County Brewing Co.