Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lakewood shipping summertime drinkable duo

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Summer seems to finally have arrived in North Texas, and with it comes two seasonal releases from Lakewood Brewing Co.

The first of these offers a new spin on an old favorite, as Zomer Pils (draft, cans) is now dry-hopped with Lemondrop and noble hops to give the beer a touch of citrus flavor, along with a grassy element. With the changes, consumers should expect a beer that maintains its thirst quenching quality, but now with an added flair.

"We're excited to re-release Zomer with this little hoppy twist," says Wim Bens, founder and president of the brewery. "We honestly didn't think this beer could get any more refreshing, but we proved ourselves wrong with this brew."

As for the other summertime beer, Artsy Tartsy (draft only) has been tapped for wide release after first being a taproom/special event-only beer. This time, though, Lakewood has added peaches in order to take the beer to another level. 

"Artsy Tartsy is just as refreshing, with a slightly fruitier spin on it," says Bens. "We chose a Berliner weisse since the style pairs so well with fruit, and nothing screams summer quite like fresh peaches. The added tartness, low ABV and bitterness make the beer highly drinkable."

Look for both beers to be available throughout DFW beginning this week, with shipments to other markets happening in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On the BrewHaHa and Four Corners' new spot in The Cedars

Image credit: Go Oak Cliff.

For years now, Brew Riot has been one of a handful of local events that celebrate the homebrewer...a.k.a. the origin of the craft beer movement. This year, though, Brew Riot wasn't meant to be. The festival's growth over its first eight years has forced organizers to seek out a new place to hold the event, which they say will return bigger and better in 2018.

In its place for 2017, though, fans of Brew Riot were presented with an alternative in the form of the first ever Dallas BrewHaHa. Produced by Go Oak Cliff, the same folks behind Brew Riot, the placeholder event (as it's been called) went down this past weekend, bringing with it a new vibe and a new venue with which to celebrate craft beer culture.

The vibe, in this case, had more of a standard weekend festival-type feel, with vendors, artisans and food tents replacing the surroundings of the bustling Bishop Arts neighborhood. It was different, but not in a bad way, being simply a more everyday way for the craft beer community to come together.

With respect to the venue, BreHaHa was held at the new facility of Four Corners Brewing Co. in The Cedars (located at 1311 S. Ervay St.). Set up on a two-acre tract of land in that South Dallas neighborhood, the brewery's new digs sit opposite the historic Ambassador Hotel. A warehouse built on the spot in 1925 has been renovated to house the company's 16,000 square foot production space, which will be offset by a taproom-to-be under construction inside an existing building off its front elevation. That structure, incidentally, once served as stables for the hotel across the way (see image captions for more on Four Corners' new location).

The Ambassador Hotel hovers over the front of Four Corners' location in The Cedars. A taproom is under construction in the building to the right (off-image). It will an feature an event space, on-site food service, and a small-batch brewing system as its centerpiece (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Four Corners is replacing its original 30-bbl system with a new setup anchored by a four-vessel 50-bbl brewhouse (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

It was the beer, though, that ultimately brought everyone together for the BrewHaHa, as just short of 30 homebrew teams signed up to compete and sample their latest creations.

Among them were at least two entities that hope to be open and serving the public by this time next year. Oak Cliff Brewing Co., working to set up shop at Tyler Station in Oak Cliff, served up a portfolio led by a twosome of tasty lagers - Oak Cliff Export and Bishop Black Lager, while Steam Theory Brewing Co., under construction in Trinity Groves, poured a Dank IPA and the wonderful Wee Piggy (a bourbon barrel-aged wee heavy).

Also looking to join the professional ranks at some point is Celestial Beerworks, which showed an affinity for hops with brews like Kepler (a New England-style IPA) and Gravitational Collapse (American pale ale). Yet another, Bleshoux Brewing, produced my favorite beer of the day, a spice-infusion by the name of Chai Times Blonde Stout.

Surveying others on hand, longtime Brew Riot participants like Mox Nix Brewery (currently collaborating with Cobra Brewing Co. on beers like Raspberry Rye and Citra Blond) and Knowles Brothers Craft Brewing continued to impress, the latter even rolling out a ridiculous 18.5% ABV imperial stout called By-Tor.

They led a wave of relative newcomers (i.e. groups that have only been around a year or two) that combined to produce a range of interesting beers that didn't seem to take any current trends too seriously. Teams just made good beer, for the most part and, in fact, I'd say the quality of the beers offered was as good or better than it has ever been...whether we be talking about Brew Riot or other area homebrew extravaganzas.

As for what else I tried, a handful of notable brews are listed below. Those who created them may be unfamiliar, but who knows...someday one might be a household name. Cheers!

Bigtone Brewing - Zaragosa Mexican Coffee Stout
Brutal Beerworks - Hop Suey
Driveway Brewing - Barrel-Aged Krew Brew (vanilla milk stout).
East Dallas Brewing Co. - Vienna Lager
Holy Brewing - Barrel-Aged Honey Tripel

* Visit Go Oak Cliff's Facebook page to see additional images from the event.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Shiner harvests the Hill Country for Peach Wheat

Image credit: The Gambrinus Co.

When a little white box from the little brewery in Shiner shows up at my door in the spring or summer, it's a fairly safe bet that some sort of fruit beer is in the offing. Just consider what the Spoetzl Brewery has produced during warm weather months over the past few years. Beers like Ruby Redbird, Prickly Pear and Strawberry Blonde have all hit the market once the mercury started rising in the Lone Star State.

In each of those instances, the fruit used to make the beer was harvested right here in Texas, which is a trend that continues with the latest beer in Shiner's Brewer's Pride series, Hill County Peach Wheat (4.5% ABV, 15 IBU). It's a beer that's brewed with a mix of 2-row and wheat malt, along with other natural flavors, but the peaches are what brings "the Hill Country to your hand."

Peach Wheat makes for a fine poolside potation (The Gambrinus Co.).

Now, make no mistake, Hill Country Peach Wheat is peachy, and not in a contrived way like a lot of beers that claim to feature the fuzzy fruit's flavor. It's just that other than a hint of wheat grain in the finish, peaches more or less dominate the palate. So, the question of the beer's appeal would seem to come down to whether the peach presence is too much of a good thing.

On that note, my impression of Hill Country Peach Wheat follows almost directly in line with what I thought about Shiner Prickly Pear. When the beer is's a refreshing and effervescent beverage that stops just short of the soda-like quality I sensed when drinking Ruby Redbird. Let it get too warm, though, and it feels as if the sweetness starts to linger just a little bit too long.

Be that as it may, Hill Country Peach Wheat almost certainly isn't meant to be a sipping beer. Rather than setting aside time to savor a beer like this, you're more likely to shotgun it on a hot summer day. Just keep it cold and keep it koozied, if that's the case, and you'll be good to go should you decide to pop a Peach Wheat poolside.

Like all Brewer's Pride release, Shiner Hill Country Peach Wheat will only be available for a limited time. Look for it on tap, in 24-ounce bombers, and in 12-ounce bottles as part of the brewery's Family Reunion six pack.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Backcountry Brewery closes Rowlett location

Image credit: Backcountry Brewery.
Fifteen months after opening for business, Backcountry Brewery has closed its Texas location in Rowlett.

Based in Frisco, Colorado, Backcountry began operations in Rowlett after agreeing to purchase the equipment of the defunct FireWheel Brewing Co. in December 2015. The brewery held its grand opening the following February, eventually going on to brew and package four of its beers on-site for distribution to the local market.

Along those lines, cans of Backcountry's Amber, Pale Ale, Double IPA and Texas IPA will be sold at retail until inventory is exhausted, however, it's unclear if product shipments will continue from the company's brewpub in Colorado, which remains open.

The Rowlett closure, which was announced on Facebook, became effective as of May 13.