Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thirsty Bro off and running in Royse City

Thirsty Bro is the first brewery in Royse City and the
third in Rockwall County (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D)

The phrase "go west, young man" is one that's traditionally used to talk about the natural course of America's expansion, but here in North Texas the phrase "go east, brewer man" might be a more appropriate adage, considering the last two breweries to open in our area have done so near the region's eastern border.

One of those is Thirsty Bro Brewing Co., which held its grand opening on Saturday in Royse City. Founder Terry Gordon and wife Catherine have been welcoming visitors on a soft basis here and there since late December, but this past weekend was the first time Thirsty Bro was officially open to the public. Saturday's festivities included live music and, of course, beer - both of which were enjoyed in the brewery's intimate space, which essentially anchors one end of the city's downtown district.

On tap for the occasion were five Thirsty Bro recipes, including the flagship Gettin' Figgy Wit' It, a pale ale brewed with fig and apricot that Gordon says has been his most-requested beer so far. Also available were Licking Dog Porter (chocolate and licorice), Big Bro Breakfast Stout (oatmeal, raisin and cinnamon), Brother's Keeper IPA (Citra hops, orange and anise), and Bro'd Trip IPA (British malt).

Thirsty Bro beers will feature a variety of ingredients, including fruit, nut and spice infusions (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

That's just the starting lineup, though, as Gordon plans to serve upwards of 12 beers on a regular basis (click the image above for a full list, including ingredients and ABV/IBU where available).

"We're going to have eight regulars and four rotators," says Gordon. "One of the rotators will be unique in that we'll do a kind of homebrew spotlight beer with someone from the Rockwall Brewers Association."

Production of those beers is currently being done on Gordon's pilot system. While his 15-barrel production brewhouse was delivered in November, Gordon says he's still working with the city on a couple of issues on how it'll be set up inside the space. Originally, the plan was to open after getting everything installed, but delays got to a point where he had to make choice as to whether to wait it out or push forward.

"We're about five months behind where we wanted to be in terms of getting up and running," explains Gordon. "Sooner or later you have to get open, though, so we decided to start with the first five brews being made on the pilot system. We'll keep those on full time and work in small batches of the others every few weeks."

What that limited output also means is that the taproom will only be open on Saturdays from 12-11 p.m. initially, with hours on Thursday, Friday and Sunday being added once full production is underway.

* Click here for more on the brewery and the story behind its name.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hemisphere is here: Long-awaited brewery now operating in Rockwall

All images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Finishing the final leg of a journey that's lasted nearly six years, Hemisphere Brewing Co. has opened its doors in Rockwall.

Indeed, if ever there was a brewery that ought to have a beer called Murphy's Law, Hemisphere would be the one. All startups face obstacles, but it seems as if founders Ruben Garcia and Brandon Mullins have met with more than their fair share since kicking off the project in 2011.

"Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong," says Garcia.

In the last year alone, they've dealt with code issues related to ramps and doors, not to mention problems with getting the gas line hooked up. Then, on top of all that, Mullins ended up landing in the hospital right as Hemisphere was poised to announce its long-awaited opening.

A small-batch system and a working list of over 90 recipes means patrons can expect a lot of
experimentation when it comes to what Hemisphere has to offer
(© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Thankfully, though, perseverance has finally paid off. And to hear Garcia tell it, it's rewarding just to be able to get to the point where he and Mullins can say "We're open!"

"There a lot of things we want to do with the brewery," explains Garcia. "For now, though, we really just want to enjoy being open here in Rockwall. Eventually, we'll work on getting our beer out to a wider audience, but we'd like to get settled in first while building a following with the local community."

As for the types of beer Hemisphere will be serving, the brewery's debut weekend featured five different beers. Early returns suggest Straight Dope IPA will be the crowd-pleaser, but my favorite beer on the board was Hemisphere Grisette (the coffee porter was a close second). No matter which you choose, though, this first run of beers suggests that balanced, approachable brews will be the order of the day.
  • Shiver Blueberry American Wheat (5.86% ABV, 17.6 IBU): An easy-drinking wheat beer with a hint of blueberry sweetness and a lightly tart finish.
  • Straight Dope IPA (6.46% ABV, 73 IBU): A hazy IPA, with upfront notes of citrus and tropical fruit that's backed by a moderate bitterness.
  • Hemisphere Grisette (5.56% ABV, 15.3 IBU): Complex and crushable, this light-bodied beer is a little tart and a little funky, with elements of citrus and bread yeast rounding out the flavor.
  • Superfleek Coffee Porter (7.22% ABV, 46.3 IBU): Distinctive roast and an earthy underbelly form the base of this coffee-forward beer, which finishes smooth with little bitterness thanks to the use of cold-brewed coffee.
  • Gnarlacious English Pale Ale (6.46% ABV, 30.5 IBU): A dry, estery and earthy English-style pale.

Hemisphere's taproom has an open and casual feel, with wide-screen TVs and
Giant Jenga offering entertainment options (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Of course, other beers are in the works, but what form they'll take remains to be seen. According to Garcia, the partners are working from a list of over 90 different recipes. What ultimately gets chosen, though, will depend on a variety of factors. Naturally, consumer preference will play a part, but so will a desire to offer styles and/or flavor combinations that are currently missing in the local marketplace (ergo, offering up a style like the grisette).

Regardless of what styles get brewed, expect Hemisphere to remain draft-only for the time being. Packaged products will follow at some point, but when that happens will probably depend on that whole getting their feet firmly on the ground thing. Either way, a trip to the taproom is currently your best bet if you're looking to try a Hemisphere beer.

On that note, taproom hours will occur on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to start. Exact times are still being worked out, so be sure to follow the brewery's social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter) for the most up-to-date information.


* Click here for more on the brewery and its six-year journey.

Friday, March 17, 2017

From NTX and beyond: A (very) brief history of green beer

If you happen to be one of those people who simply must dip your lips in a pint of green beer this St. Patrick's Day, why not do it while knowing a little bit of the history behind the emerald elixir? By all accounts, these crafty concoctions got their start during the early 1900s (as you'll see in the snippets below), but you might not realize that a former brewery in North Texas plays a small part in the story as well.
Plano's Reinheitsgebot Brewing Co. was the first microbrewery in Texas, not to mention the sixth one ever to open in the United States. And, believe it or not, the company once produced the only bottled green beer in the country. Collin County Emerald was an all-malt beverage crafted for St. Patrick's Day in the mid-1980s. It was packaged and sold in clear glass bottles, which came complete with a Leprechaun on the label.

Image info: Snapshot taken from an original, unused bottle label.

America's first exposure to green beer appears to have happened in Spokane, Washington in 1910. That year, a local bar poured a beer with an apparently naturally-occuring shade of green, which...when combined with the imagery of a beer that "looks like paint"...makes you wonder what exactly patrons were being exposed to while drinking this beer.

Image info: Article snapshot taken from the March 17, 1910 edition of The Press, a newspaper out of Spokane, Washington. Click here to access the article by way of The Library of Congress.

Long about 1914, a man by the name of Thomas H. Curtin created a green beer by adding a bit of blue dye to a glass of amber-hued lager. The coloring agent, wash blue, was and still is a product used to improve the appearance of certain fabrics. No word on whether or not it had any effect on the taste of the beer.

Image info: Article snapshot taken from the March 26, 1914 edition of The Independent, a newspaper based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Click here to access the article by way of Google News.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lakewood to deliver Mole Temptress, March 20

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Continuing with a plan to offer its Seduction Series beers in a smaller format, Lakewood Brewing Co. will release Mole Temptress in 4-packs of 12-ounce bottles beginning March 20.

According to the brewery, the recipe for Mole Temptress combines chipotle, ancho, guajillo and pasilla chiles, as well as cinnamon and 100% pure cacao, to create a beer that has a rich, spiced nuance to go along with a warm subtle finish.

"Temptress is such a great base beer to play with flavor combinations, and one of the first ideas we experimented with was mole," says founder Wim Bens. "As a brewery from a state with a strong Hispanic culture, we wanted to see how incorporating these indigenous, bold flavors in a milk stout would play together."

Working with a variety of dried chiles wasn't easy, adds Bens, since it would have been very easy to go overboard with respect to the spice addition.

"This was one of the more challenging beers to get just right, since chile beers can go extreme very quickly," explains Bens. "We think it hits every note nicely, not overpowering the base of the beer, while letting a little heat and spice come through at the right levels. Unlike other chile beers, it's not going to knock you over the head with heat. The flavors meld beautifully together, allowing just the right amount of each element to come through."

Look for Mole Temptress to first appear on shelves around DFW, with deliveries to other Texas markets to follow.