Monday, January 21, 2019

Lakewood helping to raise funds for startup Vector Brewing

Images courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Last week, the Dallas Observer  reported on the plight of Vector Brewing, a local brewery in development fighting to keep its dream alive in the face of the government shutdown. In response to the company's struggles, Lakewood Brewing Co. (LBC) is "doing what the beer industry does best and is helping out a brewer in need."

“Community spirit is one of our core values and it guides us to help out our fellow brewers whenever we can," says Wim Bens, founder and president of LBC. "Starting a family business is difficult enough without the headache of the government shutdown. Even if it’s resolved today, the backlog will keep them without their funding for a while.”

Bradley and Bens at LBC.
Vector Brewing, started by Lakewood's former creative director Craig Bradley and his wife Veronica, is doing its best to navigate through the government shutdown. Their Small Business Administration (SBA) loan has been held in limbo while the cost of construction has been ongoing.

“The past few weeks have been tough, as the shutdown has effectively stalled us at the moment we were expecting to get started,” says Bradley. “The amount of support from our community and fellow breweries has been amazing to see and we can’t thank our LBC family enough for helping us out while we get through this, and believe me, we will get through this.”

Lakewood will be holding a “Brewing Good Sunday” fundraiser this Sunday, January 27th, at the brewery's taproom in Garland. A dollar from each pint served on Sunday will go directly to Vector Brewing, and representatives of the company will also be on site to sell shirts and talk about their business.

Click here to learn more about Vector Brewing and to donate directly to the cause.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Noble Rey eyes strategic restructuring with Ch. 11 filing

Image: Noble Rey Brewing Co.

Noble Rey Brewing Co. of Dallas has filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, according to a filing with the Texas Northern Bankruptcy Court dated December 19, 2018.

Chris Rigoulot, founder of Noble Rey, released a statement on the matter, indicating the company has no plans to close, with the move being made primarily to help Noble Rey organize existing debt.

"Chapter 11 is part of a strategic restructuring that allows companies time to become profitable again while restructuring any debt," says Rigoulot. "We are making the necessary changes to be in this industry for the long haul!"

"Noble Rey is going through a strategic restructuring, and we couldn’t feel better about that decision," adds Rigoulot. "We feel the excitement of creative enterprise again, and Noble Rey will begin to push the envelope and reaffirm ourselves as a source of innovation, and with no compromise to our existing product or image. We simply got caught up in the rat race, and the realization of the support we have received from the local community has brought us back to what we wanted this thing to be in the beginning."

The brewery began operations in July 2015, and in the years since has established itself as one of the area's more recognizable brands. Noble Rey was the first to introduce label graphics designed around full-body characters that come together when viewed across stacked cans.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Bipartisan beer-to-go bills filed ahead of 2019 legislative session

Image credit: Texas Craft Brewers Guild.

Ahead of the 86th legislative session, bipartisan bills (SB 312HB 672) proposing the legalization of beer-to-go sales from Texas craft breweries have been introduced by State Senator Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) and State Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin).

The Texas Craft Brewers Guild and its political action committee arm, CraftPAC, have strongly advocated for off-premise sales as a means of supporting small businesses, increasing consumer choice, and creating more quality manufacturing jobs for Texans.

Currently, Texas is the only state in America that doesn't allow beer-to-go sales. The move by Senator Buckingham and Representative Rodriguez looks to bring Texas into line with the rest of the nation by setting craft brewers on a more equal playing field with the state's other alcoholic beverage producers.

“HB 672 corrects a glaring disparity in the state’s alcohol laws and gives Texans the freedom to purchase beer-to-go when they visit a local brewery…just like they can when they visit a Texas winery, distillery, or brewpub,” says Rep. Rodriguez. “The fact is, 49 other states already allow consumers to purchase beer-to-go when they visit a local brewery…Texas should be a leader when it comes to supporting small businesses, not the last horse to cross the finish line.”

Current law states that Texas manufacturing brewers who produce less than 225,000 barrels of beer annually can sell up to 5,000 barrels of that beer to tasting room visitors for on-premises consumption. The proposed bills would amend the current law to allow for on-premises “or for off-premises consumption” of these products. This change would not impact the overall quantity of beer brewers can sell from their tasting rooms, but would give patrons more freedom to enjoy that beer either in the tasting room setting or back at their homes.

"As a promoter of a fiscally responsibly limited government, I believe Texas craft brewers should have the right to sell beer and ale to consumers for off-premise consumption — a privilege the state already provides to wineries, distilleries and brewpubs in Texas,” says Sen. Buckingham. "Senate District 24 is home to many craft breweries, and with Texas being the only state in the country that does not permit off-premise sales at production breweries, I have filed SB 312 to encourage further economic development in my Senate District and to eliminate this unnecessary government overreach."

Click here to support the efforts of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and CraftPAC by making a contribution or signing the Beer-to-go Sales Petition.

Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Year in review: Craft beer means business

All logos and graphics the property of their respective owners.

Sitting down to pen this year's review of all things beer in North Texas, the phrase "another verse, same as the first," kept coming to mind. Indeed, a common thread in each annual summary published in this space over the years has been the continuing upward trend in local industry growth. And 2018 was no different, with over a dozen brewery openings, few closures, and even more new players ready to enter the fray.

Of course, the advancement of the industry means more competition for all who do business and, as such, a good portion of this year's rundown covers maneuvers breweries have made in order to better position themselves in the market. Beyond that, notable national recognition is covered, as are industry insights, trending styles and a list of 2018's preferred pours.

Regarding what's missing, there's no update on legal proceedings. The Texas Legislature only meets in odd years, and there has been no movement on items pending in the courts. The industry isn't resting on its laurels, however, as preparations are underway for the 2019 legislative session. In particular, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild launched CraftPAC, a political action committee created to champion legal reforms. Naturally, a key focus of the effort will be to secure to-go sales for production breweries.

The Business of Beer, Part 1: Marketing and Expansion

Surveying business dealings in the local industry, two area operations rebranded during 2018. In Fort Worth, Chimera Brewing Co. was sold and re-named to Fort Brewery & Pizza, with the change bringing with it a further focus on pizza and beer. Cobra Brewing Co. also underwent a revamp in Lewisville, adopting a classic rock theme under the new moniker, Old Town Brewhouse.

In other marketing efforts, Noble Rey Brewing Co. made a move to establish brand presence overseas by inking a deal with Neodif, a beverage retailer in France. The agreement gave Neodif rights to produce, package and sell Noble Rey's beers in locations throughout Europe.

Elsewhere, Armadillo Ale Works reached the finish line in its longtime quest to establish a permanent location in Denton. Debuting in May, the brewery's taproom includes an on-site coffee shop, making it a morning, noon and night destination for Denton denizens.

As for future projects, The Manhattan Project Beer Co. hopes to open its own location in Dallas early next year. Further out, a taproom constructed out of repurposed shipping containers is in the works at Franconia Brewing Co. of McKinney, while 3 Nations Brewing Co. intends to move its entire operation from Farmers Branch to Downtown Carrollton. On top of all that, the following satellite locations are also coming soon:

The Business of Beer, Part 2: Craft Consolidation

On the topic of buyouts, "big beer" steered clear of taking on additional interests locally this year, but there were still a number of equity transactions that took place in 2018.

The first of these happened in June, when upstart Hop & Sting Brewing Co. acquired assets of Grapevine Craft Brewery. Referred to now as Hop & Sting at Grapevine Craft Brewery, the entity produces recipes developed under both brand names.

June also brought news that Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas had joined the CANarchy Craft Beer Collective. This coming after a 2016 agreement to sell a stake to Storied Craft Breweries didn't work out as planned. Now, with the new partnership, Deep Ellum's name joins Oskar Blue Brewery, Cigar City Brewing, Perrin Brewing Co., Wasatch Brewery, Squatters Craft Beers and Three Weavers Brewing Co. on  CANarchy's membership roster.

These developments were followed in July by the acquisition of Four Corners Brewing Co. by Constellation Brands. Owners of names like Corona and Modelo, Constellation targeted Four Corners based on the belief that its bicultural identity offers an opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of Hispanic products in the marketplace.

Comings and Goings

Based on current projections, North Texas could soon be home to nearly 100 brewing companies. A total of 73 operations (49 breweries, 24 brewpubs) are now in business locally, and there are at least another 18 in various stages of development. Should a few more throw their hats into the ring, the area could reach the century mark within the next two years.

As for the comings and goings of 2018, 14 openings occurred, while two firms ceased operation, and one brand was absorbed by another.

  • Breweries: Celestial Beerworks (Dallas), Edgewise Eight Brewing Co. (Weatherford), New Main Brewing Co. (Pantego), Oak Cliff Brewing Co. (Dallas), Outfit Brewing (Dallas), Railport Brewing Co. (Waxahachie), Turning Point Beer (Bedford).
  • Brewpubs: Cellarman's Pub & Brewery (Sherman, added brewing operations), Cowtown Brewing Co. (Fort Worth), Flix Brewhouse (Little Elm), Old Texas Brewing Co. (Burleson, added brewing operations), Parker County Brewing Co. (Willow Park), Steam Theory Brewing Co. (Dallas), Union Bear Brewing Co. (Plano).
  • Breweries: Whistle Post Brewing Co. (Pilot Point).
  • Brewpubs: Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant (Plano).
Acquired brands:
  • Breweries: Grapevine Craft Brewery by Hop & Sting Brewing Co. (Grapevine counted as closure in chart below).

Source: Individual research.
Future breweries:
  • Bluffview Growler (Dallas, adding brewing operations), Brutal Beerworks (North Richland Hills), False Idol Brewing (North Richland Hills), Krootz Brewing Co. (Gainesville), Siren Rock Brewing Co. (Rockwall), Soul Fire Brewing Co. (Roanoke), Three Nails Brewery (Roanoke), Toasty Bros. (Grapevine, joint proprietorship), Westlake Brewing Co. (Dallas), 
Future brewpubs:
  • Beard Science at Truck Yard (The Colony), By the Horns Brewing Co. (Mansfield), Flix Brewhouse (Mansfield), Funky Picnic Brewery & Café (Fort Worth), G Town Brewery (Greenville), Pathfinder Brewery (Hudson Oaks), Vector Brewing (Dallas), Whiskey Hollow Distillery & Brewery (Muenster), Windmills Brew Pub (The Colony).

North Texas on the National Stage
  • Fort Worth named top 10 beer city: In January, the Travel Channel included the City of Fort Worth in its roundup of "The New Top 10 Beer Cities." The list called attention to smaller cities in big beer states making a mark on today's industry.
  • Shannon Brewing makes television debut: Shannon Brewing Co. of Keller appeared on an August episode of The History Channel series, Blood Money. Focused on family businesses, the program puts the spotlight on children trying to earn the right to carry on the family enterprise.
  • News media peeps Collective/Lone Star collab: The Collective Brewing Project of Fort Worth again garnered attention for the use of an unconventional ingredient in one of its beers. Last year, stories centered on Collective's ramen noodle gose, Cup O' Beer, but this time around all eyes were on a sour beer called Peep this Collab. The result of a partnership with growler shop, Lone Star Taps & Caps, the concoction was brewed with 30 boxes of Marshmallow Peeps.

The Year in Beer
  • Dallas-Fort Worth short on core consumers: Insights on demographics released in June estimate only 4% of Dallas-Fort Worth residents are regular craft beer drinkers (defined as those who had consumed a craft beer in the last 30 days). That number falls well below the national average of 7.3%.
  • The juice is officially loose: Based on two events in 2018, it seems safe to say that juicy and hazy IPAs have cemented their place in the craft beer lexicon. The Brewers Association got the ball rolling when it released official guidelines for these types of beers in March. Then, it was revealed in August that one variation, "Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale," had claimed the title of most-entered category at the Great American Beer Festival.
  • Style trends: The love affair with all things IPA continued in 2018 with the introduction of the "brut" style, a bone-dry beer approaching zero gravity with respect to residual sugars. In other recipes, cannabis cropped up in a few brews, as did edible glitter, though one wonders if the latter movement will result in any lasting luster.
  • North Texas award winnersClick here to review all of the award-winning beers from 2018. Coverage includes results from the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup, Brussels Beer Challenge, U.S. Open Beer Championship, San Diego International Beer Competition, Los Angeles International Beer Competition and Best of Craft Beer Awards.
  • The 2018 list of Beer in Big D's preferred pours (i.e. new-to-market beers some blogger found to be particularly enjoyable): 3 Nations Devout Crème Brûlée, 903 Bordeaux Barrel-Aged Sasquatch Opus One Barrels, Celestial Ad Reinhardt, Cigar City Marshal Zhukov's, Lakewood Lion's Share VI, Martin House Old Mose, Oak Cliff Sombre, Real Ale Mysterium Verum Cease & Desisyphus, Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 18, Tupps DDH IPA Series 2, Turning Point Chicken & Gravy.

Cheers and Happy New Year!