Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oak, smoke, Steam and sours: A 2015 Brew Riot rundown


Image credit: Texas Homebrew Society, Dowdy Studios.

After attending Brew Riot for a number of years now, I've come to the conclusion that each year's trip to the annual homebrew competition in Bishop Arts involves three primary objectives:

1) Secure a parking spot.
2) Size up the soon-to-be professionals.
3) Sample a bevy of homebrews.

Then again, this year I strongly considered adding a fourth objective, that being to burn down the sinus assaulting cigar tent. However, beyond the likelihood of my being arrested, I decided the end probably wouldn't justify the means. Think about it...you're not exactly going to rid the atmosphere of cigar smoke by setting fire to stacks of stogies.

In any case, palate numbing issues aside, the 2015 edition of Brew Riot featured the standard array of professional and amateur brewers sharing their wares. Among those hoping to open in the near future, Oak Highlands Brewery was on hand with some familiar favorites (Freaky Deaky, DfDub) as they prepare to make the jump to a full-time operation in the next few weeks. With TABC license in hand, as of yesterday no less, they are working on finishing up their space in North Dallas while also interviewing potential brewers.

Another of those in development, Steam Theory Brewing Company was also a Brew Riot returnee. This brewpub-to-be has a chef (locally-known Michael Weinstein), a brewer (Kirk Roberts, most recently of the now defunct Stumbling Steer in Albuquerque), and a yet-to-be-revealed location in Dallas. It seems they just need a bit more capital, as a sign suggested in saying "Investment Opportunities Available."

On to the beer, perhaps the most important of the primary objectives, I don't know that I noticed any dominant trends this time around. Wild and funky beers, if anything, were more in abundance led by stalwart sour producers Grotto and Mossberg Brewing. I've mentioned both in articles on this site before, and both were out again pouring well-deserved award-winning brews. Grotto served a beer named Frank, while Mossberg poured Purple Drank, and true to form each took top honors in their competition categories. Not only that, Mossberg team member Erin Brewer made her name proud, literally, by being named Best Female Brewer for a smoked wheat and juniper berry farmhouse ale called Fall Saison.

As for personal favorites, beyond loitering perhaps far too long at Oak Highlands and the two booths I just mentioned, what follows are a few beers I particularly enjoyed.


Steam Theory Brown IPA: A tasty brown ale base enhanced with the flavor and aroma of tropical fruit and a veritable pile of pine needles.

Fountain Head Keine Eier: Assuming I got the name right, I'm not sure why this Bavarian-style wheat beer has "no balls" (which is what a certain German brewer tells me "keine eier" means), but I'll always have a soft spot for a well-executed version of the style that got me into craft beer.

Preston Fuller Count Drunkula: Billed as a vanilla bourbon milk stout, this was probably my favorite beer of the day. For lack of a better description, it gave the impression of bourbon-soaked graham crackers dipped in chocolate.


Other notables: River Crew Ricochet EyePA (3rd Place, IPAs), and Dallas Homebrew Collective Blitzkrieg Bock (3rd Place, Lagers).

For a list of category winners, see the post on Brew Riot's Facebook page.

Monday, May 11, 2015

BrainDead brings on the beer

Gritz among three BrainDead brews now on tap in Deep Ellum (Brian Brown).

Without actually intending to, it turns out that I was the first person to order a pint of house-brewed beer at BrainDead. I'm sure you've heard of it...it's this new brewpub thing happening down in Deep Ellum, a place that's been devoid of brewpubs since Copper Tank closed in 2001. I mean, of course you have, it's been the talk of the town since partners Sam Wynne, Jeff Fryman and Drew Huerter first announced their intentions back at the end of 2013.

Now, if we're talking history, other than Copper Tank and the currently operating Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Deep Ellum has been home to two other brewing operations over time. One was a short-lived brewpub by the name of Moon Under Water, which was around for all of two months in late 1996, while another was the Main Street Brewing Company which closed in 1998. Interestingly enough, BrainDead's address at 2625 Main Street lies at roughly the halfway point between where Copper Tank and Main Street Brewing once existed at 2600 and 2656 Main, respectively.

Of course, that was then and this is now, and most local beer geeks would be lying if they said they haven't been anticipating head brewer Huerter's newest creations since BrainDead opened in March. As for what sort of styles he has to offer, the initial focus appears to be on easy-drinking brews of a type you don't necessarily see every day.

The first of BrainDead's opening day trio of beers is Gritz, an unfiltered pre-Prohibition-style cream ale whose description is meant to imply that it's a little bolder than a traditional take on the style. In that respect it surely delivers, as it has the sort of more-forward flavor profile you might expect in a cream ale that's been imperialized. This one stays sessionable, though, with its 4.4% ABV, while its mix of grainy effervescence and a lightly-hopped finish makes it one of the more enjoyable cream ales I've had in quite some time.

As for beer number two, 75 Shilling is a straight ahead Scottish ale with a number designation that puts it between the "heavy" and "export" versions of the style as defined by the BJCP. It's got a full-flavored malt backbone with a doughy element, hints of caramelization and an earthy undertone that hits the mark on all the basic style descriptors. It's an easy drinker as well, having a light-to-medium body and an ABV under 5%.

The last beer on the list is an Export Stout, something that's rarely seen locally whether you be talking a domestic or import. In fact, the only other one I can remember of any consequence is Guinness Foreign Extra, though Rabbit Hole did release one earlier this year with a fruit infusion. Huerter's version was still carbonating over lunch, so I just had a quick taste, but that was enough to get a feel for how its slightly bitter cocoa character will pair well with the Chocolate Stout Popcorn that Chef David Pena was sampling during lunch.

Out of the three, Huerter says the Gritz and the Export Stout will be regular offerings, while 75 Shilling is currently intended to be a one-off. The latter being something we should probably get used to, as that's the beauty of a brewpub embracing a small-batch approach - something Deep Ellum has been missing for a long, long time.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A trip to Tupps: new brewery in McKinney now open

All images property of Brian Brown / Beer in Big D.

With their grand opening on Saturday, Tupps Brewery became the area's twenty-sixth production brewing operation. Led by founders Keith Lewis and Tupper Patnode, along with brewer Chris Lewis (one of Keith's two sons), team Tupps welcomed a steady crowd of North Texans to their facility located adjacent to the historic Cotton Mill in McKinney. Estimates on the brewery's Facebook page put the number of attendees at around 1200, up significantly from pre-event expectations of a few hundred.

This was my second visit to Tupps, coming after a preview excursion back in January when the brewery was in the final stages of construction. Now having had the chance to see the finished space, you certainly get a sense of what those behind the business are all about. For one thing, certain elements leave little doubt that this is a brewery built in Texas. The Lone Star Flag is raised multiple times above the bar top, with an even larger version mounted behind the brewhouse.



The Texas theme extends further to the barley and hop-based offerings, with two everyday beers incorporating the state's name in their branding. Those beers, Texas Shade Wheat and a Texas-style Black Ale, were both on tap opening day, along with Tupps IPA. Others coming soon include Cotton Mill Gold (a golden ale brewed with five hop varieties) and Northbound 75 (a pepper-infused pale ale).


Something else you'll notice is a commitment to the reclamation of various materials for reuse in and around the brewery. While there was evidence of this here and there in January, much of the detail work on art installations and the like was still to be done. Now, you'll find examples of something old being made into something new nearly everywhere you turn. For instance, piping and pitchforks make up brewery signage overlooking the beer garden, which has within its borders a fountain made up of bottles, kegs and carboys. And if you're not sure where to go when driving in for a tour, just look for the rusty old car sitting out front of Tupps' office space. It sports the brewery's insignia and has a timeworn two-wheeler (i.e. a bicycle) resting on its rooftop.



Like others, Tupps has also made efforts to create a family-friendly atmosphere, considering kids could be seen playing games like Giant Jenga and Cornhole. There was even a basketball hoop installed at one end of the main building, making me wonder if shooting a few hoops is yet another option to be explored. A rather docile goat took in the festivities as well (so, I guess the brewery is more than just dog-friendly), apparently unphazed by its surroundings and comfortable with the attention it received.

All in all, the setting makes for a casual and festive environment on the eastern side of McKinney. Seeing how Tupps lies a little over a mile from the city's Historic Downtown square and less than three miles from the neighboring Franconia Brewing Company, you could easily make a day out of visiting all three locales on a Saturday afternoon. Should you be thinking about such a trip, take note that both breweries are open weekly at 11 a.m. Make Franconia your first stop since they close earlier at 1 p.m., then finish the day at Tupps, where they serve their brand of locally-brewed beer up until 5 p.m.


Tupps Brewery
721 Anderson Street
McKinney

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Martin House now selling Cellarman's IPA and Gateway Blonde in cans

Image credit: Martin House Brewing Company

Rolling out to retail this week, two Martin House favorites are now available in 6-packs of 12-ounce cans.

The first of these, Gateway Blonde, is the brewery's "go-to session ale" named after Fort Worth's Gateway Park Trail and is brewed with corn (ergo the cornhole recommended activity) and acidulated malt. The latter, while sounding somewhat technical, is a type of malted barley that contains a small amount of lactic acid. Its use can result in a sour-like character in the finish of a beer and is why the brewery says Gateway has a "unique but subtle kick on the finish."

As for the second of the two releases, Cellarman's Reserve IPA is the brewery's single-hop IPA brewed with a basic malt bill in order to put the emphasis on the hop addition. Of course, fans of Martin House know that the hops rotate in this beer, and the brewery says the exact variety for any given release will denoted by a sticker placed on the six-pack carrier. According to co-founder David Wedemeier, initial shipments were brewed with Cascade hops, and he expects the variety to change on monthly or bi-monthly basis going forward.

Cheers!