Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meet the family at Bitter Sisters in Addison, March 28

Beer is ready to be served at Bitter Sisters Brewery
in Addison (Brooks Whittington).
It's been nearly a year since owner/brewmaster Matt Ehinger let it be known that he intended to open Bitter Sister Brewery in the City of Addison. Originally planning to open in late summer 2014, it's taken a little longer than expected for the project to come to fruition, but Ehinger says he's just a few finishing touches away from being ready for the brewery's soft opening this weekend.

Commenting on what it took to finally get to this point, Ehinger can't single out anything specific that led to the extended timeline, it was simply a matter of working through the process. While the bulk of the brewing equipment arrived in May of last year, construction didn't begin until September due to delays in obtaining a building permit. Add to that having to work around the holiday season, and it's easy to understand how the finish line became more of a moving target.

Now brewing full-time, Bitter Sisters becomes only the second packaging brewery to exist in Addison, and the city's fourth brewing operation overall. It follows Humperdinks, which no longer brews at the Addison location, and now-closed names from the past like the Addison Brewing Company (1989) and the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery (1995-2001). Based on that, in some ways you might say that Bitter Sisters is looking to succeed where others have failed. The market was different back then, though, as Ehinger himself can attest based on his own experience brewing professionally in Oklahoma during the late 1990s.

As for the here and now, the family-run business named after Ehinger's wife and her two sisters occupies an 8,500 square foot space on the northeast corner of Surveyor Boulevard and Belt Line Road. You'd never guess the size of place based on the view from the parking lot, but there is more than enough room to move around. The production area takes up about 7,000 square feet, giving Ehinger the ability to at least double and perhaps as much as triple his current capacity in the future. At present, he's working off of a thirty-barrel brewing system, with fermenters both inside and out of cold storage in order to implement his plan to brew a lineup evenly split between ales and lagers.

On why he's looking to make lagers a focal point of his portfolio, Ehinger explains that it mostly has to do with the recognition of fact that this is Texas, and Texans have traditionally liked a certain type of beer. Part of it has to do with the climate, of course, and wanting to have a stable of light-bodied brews available for warm weather drinking, but at the same time he's thought about certain cultural aspects as well. In particular, he references early Czech and German settlers who brought their lager beer recipes with them as they immigrated largely to the central portions of the state. In other words, Texans have been drinking lagers for well over a hundred years, and old traditions die hard.

Whichever your prefer, Ehinger plans to have as many as eight beers pouring in the taproom, with selections comprised of year-round staples, quarterly seasonals and brewery exclusives. As of now, he's got three beers ready to go, each of which will be a Bitter Sisters standard going forward. Included among these is Busy Body Blonde Lager (5.9% ABV), a clean and slightly sweet Munich-style Helles, and Cat Fight IPA (6.7% ABV), a classic take on craft beer's most popular style which puts more emphasis on hop flavor and aroma than it does on overall bitterness. Then there's Knock Out Irish Red (8.1% ABV), a beer which is "imperial" in nature, but much different than what you might expect given other imperial reds around town. Brewed with an infusion of chocolate malt, it's a dark and malty beer with a chewy palate and enough underlying warmth that it's probably more of a sipper than is typical for the style.

Looking ahead, Ehinger plans to have a limited barrel program, likely opting for something other than bourbon casks short-term given that they are getting more difficult to obtain. He's leaning towards using rum barrels as of now, perhaps to give a beer like Knock Out a little added punch. As for packaging, a canning line is in the long-term plan, but he sees such an addition to be at least a year down the road. For now, he's focused on establishing his brand and his beers in and around the North Texas craft beer community.

Beginning on Saturday, March 28, the taproom at Bitter Sisters will be open weekly from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., with tours at 1 and 2 p.m. Evening hours on weekdays will be set sometime in the not-too-distant future. In addition, in the coming days you'll also be able to find the brewery's beers at the Addison Flying Saucer, Craft and Growler, Londoner Frisco, Lone Star Taps & Caps, Pie 314 and LUCK.

Bitter Sisters Brewery
15103 Surveyor Boulevard

World of Beer celebrates Grand Opening in Plano, March 30

Image credit: World of Beer

Making it the fourth such franchise in North Texas, and the second to debut this year, World of Beer Plano is set to officially open on Monday, March 30, at their 1941 Preston Road location in the Preston Shepherd Place retail development.

Joining in the Grand Opening celebration will be Real Ale brewmaster Eric Ogershok, as he and the area's newest WOB tap an exclusive firkin of the brewery's Dry-Hopped Porter. Commenting on the planned event, WOB-Plano general manager Barry O'Brien said, "We'd like to thank Real Ale Brewing...for being a part of opening day. This event is just the first of many that we believe will provide our avid beer explorers with something unique they won't find anywhere else. We look forward to getting to know our neighbors in the Plano community and discovering together the nuanced styles and rich stories that make craft beers [in Texas] so special."

In addition to the above, the following activities are also planned for opening week:

Sunday, March 29, 11 a.m.: "Support Local, Drink Local" soft opening featuring live music and pours of Franconia Irish Red to be tapped from one the brewery's wooden kegs by brewmaster Cam Horn. Net proceeds from the evening will benefit the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), a nonprofit group working to fund research and education for this debilitating neuromuscular disorder.

Tuesday, March 31, 5-8 p.m.: Loyalist Night featuring a ribbon cutting ceremony and a special tapping of Deep Ellum Neato Bandito Lager with Citra and Mosaic hops.

Wednesday, April 1, 6-9 p.m.: Brewery Night featuring Lakewood Brewing Company, with glassware while supplies last. Scheduled to be tapped: Hopochondria Session IPA and Bokkenridjers.

WOB-Plano will be open from 11 a.m. - 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit

Friday, March 20, 2015

Oak Highlands planting roots in Northeast Dallas

Image credit: Oak Highlands Brewery

There will come a time later this spring, or early summer, when you'll walk into Oak Highlands Brewery to try one of the area's newest locally-made beers. You'll pass through the main entrance, perhaps pausing for a moment to peruse the merchandise offerings, on your way towards finding a spot to relax in their 1600 square foot taproom. And, at that point, you'll have seen a little more than 10% of the overall space.

Room to expand, say founders Brad Mall and Derrin Williams, was one of the things established brewers told them to plan for as they moved forward with their new venture. That, and to assume everything would cost more and take longer to do than even their worse-case estimates. They've come to know the truth of those last two statements well, but they appear to be taking each day as it comes and are approaching the project as more of a marathon than a sprint. Both are longtime homebrewers, Mall having gotten his start around 1991 and Williams about 10 years ago, so it's not like they just woke up one day and decided to start a brewery. In fact, they've been working towards their goal in earnest for the better part of four years.

Going back to the suggestion of space, judging by their 16,000 foot location at 10484 Brockwood Road in Dallas, that's a piece of advice they've taken to heart and then some. Set in an industrial park in the northeastern part of the city, the building is only two miles from the Lake Highlands neighborhood they both call home, and even less than that from the neighboring Lakewood Brewing Company of Garland. In addition to the taproom, layout plans call for the installation of a three-vessel, thirty-barrel brewhouse and canning line (packaging is intended from the get-go), but even after that gets done they'll still have thousands of square feet to work with. Options abound, but using the added expanse to host private events is one of the more likely possibilities they've considered.

On the topic of the taproom, upwards of 20 taps will be available on any given day once things are up and running full speed. Production brews will naturally make up a part of the lineup, but the owners intend to employ their pilot system to produce small-batch, taproom exclusives in tune with a vision towards making the brewery a destination for local craft beer drinkers. Along those lines, they'll open the taproom a few nights during the week, with extended hours on the weekends and staggered tours throughout the day on Saturdays for those who are interested.

Among the beers they'll serve will be some you may be familiar with, that is if you've attended homebrew competitions like Brew Riot or Deep Ellum's Labor of Love over the past couple of years. Examples include:

  • Freaky Deaky - a Belgian tripel brewed with American hop varieties to give it a refreshing, finishing kick.
  • Allgood - a maltier, fruitier and somewhat more full-bodied take on a German-style kölsch.
  • Derelict - a bright, fresh and grapefruity American IPA.
  • Golden Mustache - a clean and balanced Dortmunder lager.

Each of the above beers has garnered praise from competition judges, though my personal favorite of theirs is one that hasn't. DF-Dub (formerly D-Dub) is a well-executed, stylistic dunkelweizen that the pair says has always been a fan favorite despite never taking home a prize. That beer, like the Dortmunder and an altbier they have in the works, is an example of a seldom-brewed style they hope will provide that little bit of differentiation that's becoming more and more important as the North Texas beer scene continues to grow. That said, they've also got a rather tasty imperial black saison I imagine might help with that as well.

Beyond that, look for Oak Highlands to offer a perpetually rotating "charity" beer on draft at the brewery and at area accounts. The idea here is to change up not only style of the beer on a regular basis, but also the charity to which proceeds will be donated. It's a way to offer a taste of something new on occasion while giving something back to the community they look to be a part of for years to come.

Regarding an opening date, Mall and Williams say it'll happen when it happens, but expectations are for such an event to be at least two-to-three months out. In the meantime, you can stay up-to-date on the brewery's progress by following Oak Highlands on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meddlesome Moth releases menu for Jester King Beer Breakfast, April 4

Image credits: Meddlesome Moth, Jester King Brewery

Continuing their series of anniversary pairdinés, the Meddlesome Moth has made public the menu and beer list for their Jester King Beer Breakfast, an event they say will be just as unorthodox as the brewery itself.

Jester King founder Jeffrey Stuffings will host the get together, which happens on Saturday, April 4 at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $65pp, including gratuity, and can be purchased on Eventbrite or by calling the Moth directly at 214-629-7900.

Meet and Greet

Noble King - hoppy farmhouse ale.

First Course

Snörkel - farmhouse ale brewed with oyster mushrooms and sea salt.

Tamagoyaki, pork belly, bonito, nori and sea bean salad.

Second Course

Omniscience and Proselytism - barrel-aged sour beer refermented with strawberries.

Foie gras, rhubarb croissant perdu, mascarpone pot de crème and plantain crisp.

Third Course

Figlet - farmhouse ale fermented with smoked Texas figs.

House Texas pastrami biscuit, beef jerky marmalade and smoked pecans.

Fourth Course

La Vie en Rose - farmhouse ale refermented with raspberries.

Paula's ricotta blintz with Paris tea jam.