Thursday, November 15, 2018

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - November 15, 2018 edition

The list of subjects covered in this edition of the Conspectus includes an international award, one brewery's charitable activities and the introduction of two new names to the North Texas scene.


The Regulator wins silver at European Beer Star competition

Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth earned a silver medal for The Regulator in the German-Style Heller Doppelbock category at the 2018 European Beer Star competition. The international event, which drew 2300 entries from 51 countries, focuses on beer styles of European origin. Click here for a complete list of winners.

Nine Band partners with Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, opens Oklahoma site

Earlier this month, Nine Band Brewing Co. of Allen launched a new partnership with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (CKFF). Centered around the brewery's easy-drinking honey ale, The Badge Honey Blonde, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the beer will go to CKFF for the benefit of military and first responder families.

In other Nine Band news, the company is now brewing at its location inside the Osage Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Toasty Bros. set to bring its brand of beer to market

The Denton-based company, Toasty Bros., will soon begin operations after entering into a joint proprietorship with Hop & Sting at Grapevine Craft Brewery. Founder Brian "Toast" Tiensvold intends to brew small batches for sale at accounts in Denton, with the long-term goal of opening a taproom and brewery in the city. One of his beers, Maison Saison, was featured as part of Barley & Board's Home Brewers League program.

A TTB license has been approved for Toasty Bros., while a TABC application is pending.

Beard Science receives TABC approval

An entity to be known as Beard Science has obtained a brewpub license from the TABC. The venture is one of two in the works from Brain Storm Shelter, the company behind Twisted Root Burger Co. and Truck Yard. The brewpub is part of Truck Yard's upcoming site in The Colony, located in the Grandscape development at 5949-5959 Grove Ln. (east of Nebraska Furniture Mart off Destination Dr.).

Brain Storm Shelter is also working on By The Horns Brewing Co., which is going into The Backyard project in Mansfield.

Image credits (top to bottom): Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Nine Band Brewing Co., Toast Bros., Brain Storm Shelter.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Breweries tapping into the retail dollar

Taproom crowds are becoming commonplace in North Texas (Armadillo Ale Works).

Atmosphere, unique offerings and fresh beer from the source - those are some of the reasons beer drinkers often frequent taprooms at production breweries around North Texas.

Yet, these popular destinations didn't exist at the dawn of the current craft beer boom. Consumers were able to purchase beer for on-site consumption at a brewpub (restaurants selling beer brewed on the premises), but operating a taproom wasn't an option for the first wave of new breweries to open in 2011, because they weren't allowed under Texas law.

That ban was lifted in 2013, and in the time since, taprooms have become commonplace. Most established breweries in Dallas-Fort Worth have added taproom space, while startups tend to have them in the plan from day one. It's come to the point that all but a few of the over 45 production breweries in the region now employ a taproom.

So, what factors have contributed to the rise of taprooms in North Texas?

One catalyst is the ongoing shift in market dynamics. Breweries continue to open at a breakneck pace, which means there are more brands of beer being brought to market. The problem is, wholesale and retail partners can't keep up. There are only so many taps on the wall at the local bar, and there is only so much room for stock at distribution and retail.

Nevertheless, breweries need outlets to sell their beer, and a taproom offers a solution when met with limited access to placements in the marketplace.

Taprooms are also good for business. The ability to sell beer at retail, rather than wholesale, prices has a discernible impact on the bottom line. This is especially important for small breweries and companies just starting out. In fact, numbers from the Brewers Association show the growth rate for smaller breweries with taprooms is nearly twice that of those depending solely on distribution.

At the same time, running a taproom can complicate relationships with wholesalers and retailers who view them as direct competition.

Stakeholder concerns range from being undercut on price, to being shut out on special releases that would attract more customers. In those cases, it's on brewery owners to share the wealth and to be aware of how their in-house price points compare to those of partners.

From a wider view, opponents say taprooms take business away from bars and restaurants. However, data suggests visits to a taproom aren't mutually exclusive. Based on results from a 2017 NCGA OPUS survey, brewery visits didn't replace trips to the bar for a majority of consumers.

On top of that, additional data says taprooms may work boost the bottom lines of partners as well. According to a Nielsen poll conducted by Harris in 2018, over half of regular craft drinkers (defined as those who consumed craft beer on a weekly basis) said they were likely to purchase more beer at other on-premise venues after visiting a brewery.

At the very least, taprooms represent a place to engage and educate consumers, where they can try new beers and make a direct connection with the people behind the products. If the experience is a positive one, consumers are more likely to seek out a brewery's products the next time they are out on the town. And in that scenario, a taproom's existence benefits everyone involved.

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the November 1, 2018 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

How local breweries compete in a crowded market

Data taken from production reports published by the Brewers Association. Breweries quoting estimates or choosing not 
to report may cause actual breakdown of small/mid-size/large breweries to vary slightly compared to what is shown (click to enlarge).

At no time in history has there been as many breweries operating in the U.S. as there are today. Over 6000 are currently on record, and with still more in planning, an already crowded market promises to get even more challenging.

Competition is fierce and breweries are experiencing slower growth. Just brewing good beer isn't enough to get by, which brings about the question of how best to navigate the now choppy brewing waters.

Locally, the playing field consists of over 70 brewing companies (based on openings in 2018 not accounted for in the graphic above). Operations vary in size and scope, ranging from small-batch nanobreweries selling primarily on site, to large production breweries supporting multi-state distribution channels.

With that in mind, founders from breweries big and small were asked what they are doing to stay competitive in the current business environment. Not surprisingly, strategies differ slightly for each, but the common thread among them is the belief that quality is job one.

Erin Rahr, co-founder and president of Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth (large brewery).

  • "Focusing on quality is going to be key for breweries to survive. There is a lot of beer out there now and people are becoming more educated every day on what tastes good and bad in the market."

    "At Rahr & Sons, we focus on the quality of our products and don't look to much into what others are doing. We have chosen to be very innovative with our lab, and have invested in three employees that work on quality control daily. This has also helped us keep consistency while expanding to other states."

Brad Mall, co-founder of Oak Highlands Brewery, Dallas (mid-size brewery).

  • "Obviously, quality is the number one aspect in staying competitive. Consistency is also key. I see those as one in the same - consistency is part of quality."

    "As a small, self-distributed brewery, we try to distinguish ourselves with exceptional customer service. It's important our accounts know they can get an immediate response from the brewery and they have the ability to speak directly with the decision makers. Because we self-distribute, we are able to be nimble and do things other distributed breweries may not be able to do. This enhances our relationship with accounts and helps us stand out."

Yianni Arestis, co-founder and CEO of Armadillo Ale Works, Denton (mid-size brewery).

  • "One important aspect is maintaining the highest quality, and that's why we made sure to have a QA/QC lab from day one at our facility."

    "We focus on creating truly unique beers and utilizing new and innovative ingredients. For Brunch Money, we called it an 'Imperial Golden Stout,' and now that's a style name you see from other breweries across the country. Another example would be brewing with mesquite beans or purple corn nectar - to our knowledge we were the first to use either ingredient on a commercial scale.”

    “Our goal is to have beers that are both fully flavored and accessible to all, and we feel we are able to accomplish that and stand out with our innovative brewing methods."

Jacob Sloan, co-founder of On Rotation, Dallas (small brewery).

  • "We insist on producing a high-quality product with the finest ingredients, but we are just as obsessed with offering the best craft beer drinking experience in the market. We have the ability to control the entire experience of consuming our beers, and we consider all parts of that process -- the taproom, the branding, the staff, and the glass -- as part of the product itself."

    "As a small-batch brewery, our quick-churning brew schedule allows us to branch out and take chances on more obscure, expensive, or experimental styles that may not seem viable to the larger breweries. We're able to introduce new beers on a weekly basis, and we are forever evolving the beers we make based on what is on the market and what people enjoy. That keeps us current and keeps things exciting for us and our customers in a way that allows us to stay competitive and relevant no matter how many breweries enter the market."

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the November 1, 2018 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Brewers weigh in on the next phase of hazy IPAs

Alex Knight of Turning Point and Matt Reynolds of Celestial Beerworks brewing a batch
of #juicebros, a collaborative double IPA with blueberries released in July (Turning Point Beer).

The juice is loose, not just in North Texas, but across the country as juicy and hazy IPAs are making a play for the title of craft beer's most popular style.

Earlier this year, the Brewers Association added three "juicy or hazy" styles to its competition guidelines, and one of those ended up being the most-entered category at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival. "Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale" wrested the top spot from "American-Style India Pale Ale," ending a reign that began in 2002.

Once considered a fad by some, hazy and juicy beers now enjoy a level of legitimacy with the establishment of formal descriptions and the quick ascendancy to the top of the competition ranks. The question now: Where do brewers go from here in terms of the evolution of these highly sought-after styles?

According to Matt Reynolds, owner and head brewer at Celestial Beerworks in Dallas, a first step may be to spend time improving on what's already out there.

"I feel like consistency and quality are something that lacks with these styles," says Reynolds. "We hope to dial in our system and show that these beers can be delicate and well-executed like some of the other popular styles out there."

Optimizing aspects of production is also a focus for Alex Knight, co-founder and director of brewing operations at Turning Point Beer of Bedford.

"We're working to get better extraction and higher volume, as well as trying to get more juicy characteristics into our beers, says Knight. "Another thing is seeing how to push the limits with more hops, while maybe increasing the malt and making more balanced beers."

From there, the sky is seemingly the limit, especially considering the open-ended nature of the newly-minted definitions. Baseline characteristics only call for beers to be hazy, with low bitterness, a softer texture and high hop content. Hops can be of any variety, which opens the door to a direction Reynolds is looking to explore.

"We plan to focus heavily on new or underutilized hop varieties to showcase different flavor profiles than what typically is associated with these types of beers," says Reynolds. "I love Australian hops, so we will be using those a lot in our juicy/hazy recipes."

Knight believes mash-ups of existing styles are also a possibility, with brewers bringing together elements from different types of beers to form a new breed of IPA.

"One thing that pops into my mind is the brut IPA," says Knight. "We've been tinkering with ideas that combine the dryness and drinkability of a brut IPA with the adjuncts and high hopping rates from juicy IPAs."

Of course, brewers have already expanded on the category by adding lactose to create milkshake IPAs, while oat and wheat cream IPAs are also being made at breweries around the country. As for what is destined to be the next big thing in juicy and hazy styles, that revelation is likely to come from brewers choosing to delve into uncharted territory.

Here in North Texas, breweries like Celestial and Turning Point are already operating in that realm, working to stay a step ahead as the haze craze enters a new phase.

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the November 1, 2018 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.