Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rahr & Sons taps Jack Daniel's for 2017 BBAWW release

Image courtesy of
Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.
It's a year of firsts for one of Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.'s most popular beers, as the Fort Worth brewery readies the 2017 release of Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer (BBAWW).

Due next month, this year's batch of BBAWW was aged 100% in Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey barrels. In the past, Rahr & Sons has blended the aged beer with a fresh batch of Winter Warmer (the base beer) to fine tune the flavor, but the 2017 edition of BBAWW will be the first to emerge in unblended form.

On top of that, Winter Warmer was brewed to a higher strength ahead of the aging process in order to withstand the alcohol present in the barrels. As a result, consumers should expect BBAWW to have a stronger overall flavor profile.

“Jack Daniel’s has a storied history as the first registered distillery in the country,” says Rahr & Sons owner Fritz Rahr. “We are thrilled to work with such a recognizable brand and utilize their whiskey barrels to create our delicious, bold Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer.”

According to a press release, Rahr & Sons partnered with Jack Daniel’s as part of the distillery's barrel program, in which whiskey barrels are supplied to select independent brewers to utilize in making craft beers. As part of the program, Jack Daniel’s produced a video about Rahr & Sons’ process of brewing BBAWW to promote the beer’s launch (click here to view).

Also a first, BBAWW will roll out to retailers in 4-packs of 12-oz cans. Look for it, as well as Angry Santa (which will also be canned for the first time), to hit shelves in November.

Four Corners debuts new digs in The Cedars

The Stables, which encompasses The Taproom and an event space at Four Corners, sits
across from the historic Ambassador Hotel (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Prior to a ceremonial ribbon cutting attended by a trio of Dallas city councilmen on Wednesday, George Esquivel joked that he and fellow founders, Greg Leftwich and Steve Porcari, decided to do something a little different to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Four Corners Brewing Co.

"Most breweries typically pull out all of their really cool beers for an anniversary," said Esquivel. "We thought we'd open a whole new brewery instead!"

Located in The Cedars district of South Dallas, Four Corners' new facility is an impressive addition to the neighborhood. The property itself is a two-acre spot that sits across from the historic Ambassador Hotel. On it exists a number of buildings that have a history all their own.

"Several of the buildings were part of the Conley-Lott Nichols Machinery Co., which was active back in the late 1930s, early 1940s," explained Leftwich. "They were somewhat of a competitor to Caterpillar, selling road equipment and big, heavy machinery. The parking lot was a retail yard where you could come and look at the equipment, while our main building served as the repair shop."

Inside the now revamped brewery building, Four Corners has installed a four-vessel, 50-barrel brewhouse, which outsizes the 30-barrel system the company employed while operating at its previous location in Trinity Groves.

"The new brewhouse triples our capacity," said Leftwich. "It has many bells and whistles, but what the brewers are most excited about is the automated grain-handling system. It basically means they'll no longer have to lug grain back and forth around the brewery. And with the tanks, the biggest additions are the 200-barrel fermenters (up from the 100-barrel fermenters used at Trinity Groves)."


Left: A rooster still roosts on one side of the brewery building, this time as part of an artful window installation.
Center: The Taproom at Four Corners will feature views of a yet-to-be-installed small-batch brewing system.
Right: Brewing operations are underway, with the seasonal La Lechuza set to roll out to retail.
(Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Plans are also in place to bring in a new canning line to double production output. That and the brewhouse upgrades are necessary to supply an increased distribution footprint, which the brewery hopes will reach all major markets in Texas by January of 2018.

As for where visitors to the brewery can expect to spend their time, another structure on the site is known as The Stables. Built around 1915, it was originally used as the stables for the Ambassador Hotel. Today, though, it houses The Taproom and a multi-faceted event space that will be made available for rent.

"The taproom in the back of the building will be what's open to the public most of the time," said Porcari. "We'll open up the event space when we need a little more room, like if we're showing a sporting event or celebrating other special occasions."

Still to come, the centerpiece of The Stables will be a 7-barrel brewing system set to be situated between the taproom and event area. Dubbed the "Brew Lab," it will allow Four Corners to brew one-of-a-kind, taproom-only beers separately from its production line.

Food will be served on site as well, with small bites and shareable plates being the order of the day.

"Chad Houser from Café Momentum is a very good friend of ours and he designed a menu for our taproom that we are confident will not be replicated anywhere else," said Leftwich. "It's very savory and complementary of the beer."

The public's first chance to check out the new digs comes this weekend, with a three-day grand opening celebration planned at the brewery. In addition to taproom hours beginning on Friday, the festivities will culminate with Four Corners' annual Dia de los Puercos event on Sunday. For details on that and more, check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A darkness is emerging from the Rabbit Hole

Image credit: Rabbit Hole Brewing.

This week, Rabbit Hole Brewing of Justin will release Midnight Snark (10.6% ABV), a beer that should fit the bill if you're feeling a need to embrace the dark side.

Originally appearing on occasion as a brewery-only offering, this will be the first time Midnight Snark as been available commercially. The beer is an export stout that's spent more than four months aging in bourbon barrels sourced from Witherspoon Distillery of Lewisville. However, don't see "Snark" and assume that Midnight Snark is simply a barrel-aged version of Dark Snark, another of Rabbit Hole's seasonal offerings.

According to co-founder Laron Cheek, the recipe behind Midnight Snark is slightly different than that of its sibling brew. For one thing, there's no fruit addition in Midnight Snark, a beer that also features a heftier grain bill, not to mention a change in hops. Rabbit Hole used Phoenix hops for this creation, a variety which should complement the base beer well. That's because chocolate and molasses are among the hop's characteristic flavors.

On that note, Midnight Snark is said to be a smooth, roasty brew that features elements of caramel, coffee, cocoa and vanilla. Naturally, bourbon is player as well, adding what the brewery describes as a "bold spirit finish" to the beer. That, Rabbit Hole says, makes Midnight Snark the sort of brew one seeks to help ward off the approaching autumn chill.

As for when it will hit the streets, launch parties for Midnight Snark are scheduled to occur at various locales on Thursday, October 19 (see list below). It will also be on tap at the brewery beginning Friday, October 20, where you can also pick up bottles to take home. Rabbit Hole will release a total of 660 22-ounce bombers of Midnight Snark, with the first 240 to be sold at the brewery. Remaining bottles will appear at select retail locations in North Texas (and Austin) starting next week.


Look for Midnight Snark at these upcoming events:

Thursday, October 19
  • Dallas Craft Co., The Colony - 6 p.m.
  • Dallas Craft Co., Keller - 6 p.m.
  • Drunken Donkey, Lewisville - 6 p.m.
  • State Draft House, Flower Mound - 6 p.m.
  • World of Beer, Arlington - 6 p.m.
Friday, October 20
  • Rabbit Hole Brewing, Justin - 5 p.m. (bottle and draft release)
Saturday, October 21
  • Rabbit Hole Brewing, Justin - 12 p.m. (bottle and draft release)
Tuesday, October 24
  • Kool Keg, Arlington - 6 p.m.
Thursday, October 26
  • LUCK, Dallas - 6 p.m.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - October 17, 2017 edition

In an effort to provide more complete coverage of the goings on related to our craft beer community, presented here is the first edition of what I'm calling the North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus.

Long story short, the plan is to publish an occasional summary of notable news items as a way for me to keep up with all that's happening in the local scene (since time constraints and/or limited details make it impossible to write long-form features on everything), and a way for you - the reader - to catch up on things you may have missed on social media.

As is the case with feature articles, information appearing here will be new, which means you won't see mention of re-releases or returning seasonals, both of which generally get due attention on the weekly events page. The exception to that rule being any case where a beer (year-round, seasonal or otherwise) is being packaged for the first time.

Lastly, the intent is for this to be like a week (or month) in review piece, so the past tense prevails, meaning anything occurring in the future (e.g. a new beer being released later this month) will be reserved for later editions.

Got it? Good. Off we go then...


Malai Kitchen opens third location in Fort Worth
Image credit: Malai Kitchen.

Established in Fort Worth's Shops at Clearfork development, Malai Kitchen opened the doors to its third location on October 4. According to a Facebook post, the restaurant does expect to do some brewing with a small-batch brewhouse set up on-site, but the majority of Malai's barley-and-hop-based libations will continue to be made at its site in Southlake.


Panther Island now packaging its beer

Image credit: Panther Island Brewing Co.
Last week, Panther Island Brewing Co. of Fort Worth became the latest North Texas brewery to begin canning its beers. Panther Island utilized the services of Beer Dudes Mobile Canning to package Allergeez (5.7% ABV), an unfiltered American wheat ale brewed with local honey, chamomile flowers and rose hips. The new cans feature a label graphic referencing a silver medal awarded to the brewery for Allergeez, which placed in the Herb and Spice Beer category at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival.


Noble Rey introduces Eagle Tears

 Image credit: Noble Rey Brewing Co. 
Noble Rey Brewing Co. of Dallas has introduced Eagle Tears, a beer crafted in response to Dallas Sucks, a seasonal offering from Pennsylvania's Weyerbacher Brewing Co. The two beers call attention to the longstanding rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL.

Billed as a "better beer, with a better name and a way better design," Noble Rey's announcement was met with a swift reply from a Philadelphia-area reporter who suggested Eagle Tears wasn't even a good comeback. A curious counter, considering the amount of deep thought that must have gone into coming up with the oh-so-original phrase, "Dallas Sucks." Either way, with five Super Bowl rings to our team's credit, we'll take being better at football over being better at comebacks any day of the week.

Also from Noble Rey, Tactical Combat Firefighter IPA (6.2% ABV) was canned for the first time last week. Pick up six-packs at the brewery in the Design District, at Noble Rey's taproom in the Dallas Farmers Market, or at a craft beer-friendly retailer near you.


Image credit: Pegasus City Brewery.
From Pegasus City to your porch

Highpoint Porch Ale (5.3% ABV), the second #porchapproved product to be canned by Pegasus City Brewery of Dallas, is now available at retail in six-packs of 12-ounce cans. The beer, an English-style mild ale, was the first ever made by the team at Pegasus City, with the original test batch being one that was crafted on an actual porch.


  Image credit: Martin House Brewing Co.
Martin House launches Saturday IPA

Launched at the brewery last Thursday, Saturday IPA (8.0% ABV) is the newest micro-seasonal from Martin House Brewing Co. of Fort Worth. The beer is brewed with three hop varieties and 200 pounds of blood orange puree, creating a double IPA that is said to be "a bit boozier with a heavier mouthfeel" compared to its predecessor, Friday IPA. Look for it in four-packs of 12-ounce cans.



Monday, October 9, 2017

Pigs, pints, prizes and pulp: A look back at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival

(Photo © Brewers Association)

The 2017 edition of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) concluded this past weekend in Denver, Colorado and once again a handful of North Texas breweries were recognized for their beers. It's clear, though, that the competition for medals is getting tougher, as breweries continue to open around the country and more beers are entered in the event. This year, 7,923 entries from 2,217 breweries were submitted for judging, which represents a roughly ten percent increase over the number of beers entered in 2016.

Up against that field, three local brewers brought home medals (depicted in the official event photos below), with that group being part of larger contingent of Texas breweries that landed a whopping 21 medals combined.


Armadillo Ale Works, Denton: Bronze for Honey Please in the
Honey Beer category (Photo © 2017 Jason E. Kaplan).


Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth: Silver for Oktoberfest in the
German-Style Maerzen category (Photo © 2017 Jason E. Kaplan).


Peticolas Brewing Co., Dallas: Silver for It's Always Something in the
Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale category (Photo © 2017 Jason E. Kaplan).


Surveying the 2017 competition results, there were no first-timers from North Texas (something which hasn't happened since 2011), meaning all of the local medalists were repeat winners. Armadillo Ale Works scored it's second GABF prize, while Peticolas and Rahr & Sons earned their third and fifth overall medals, respectively.

As for other items worth mentioning from the 2017 festival (and beyond), I've broken things down into the snippets below - within which you'll find thoughts on a few beers that debuted during the event, not to mention a couple of others that came out of left field. There are also segments on the jumble of juicy IPAs that were available, and a type of beer not named New England IPA (NEIPA) that I'd like to see produced by a North Texas brewery. After all of that, I'll finish up with comments from the latest stops on my seemingly never-ending tour of Colorado breweries.

Cheers!



On the lookout for a Lichtenhainer

Given the abundance of flavor on the festival floor, I generally like to go in with a plan of attack centered around a lesser-known style. One year it was roggenbiers...another time, smoked beers. For this year's tasting trip,  I opted to locate all the Lichtenhainers. Originating in Lichtenhain, Germany, Lichtenhainers are lightly tart, low gravity wheat beers made with smoked barley malt. In some ways, the style is a cross between a gose (minus the salt), a Grodsiske and a Berliner weisse, but it's the combination of smoke and sour that makes a Lichtenhainer unique. And, after trying versions made by Fair State Brewing Cooperative of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Pikes Peak Brewing Co. of Monument, Colorado, and Texas' own Live Oak Brewing Co. of Austin (the best of the bunch), I can't help but wish a few breweries in North Texas would take a stab at the style.

Press Pours (a.k.a. new brew debuts)

With the stage offered by GABF, it's only natural to see a few breweries trot out new tastes as a way to get the word out to the masses. Along those lines, pre-release press notes were delivered to my inbox regarding the debuts of Alaskan Husky IPA, Great Divide Chai Yeti, Ska BHC Double IPA and New Belgium 1969 Lager. Of those, the latter was a clean and well-made golden lager that is slated to become the signature beer at Red Robin restaurants around the country (presumably including Texas, since label approval has been obtained from the TABC). My favorite of the four mentioned, however, was the new Yeti incarnation, which seemed to do a good job of balancing the added spice (cinnamon, green cardamom, black pepper, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla) with the beast within.

A pandemonium of pulp

It seems appropriate that one of the first New England IPAs I tried at this year's GABF was called Wheez the Juice (by Drekker Brewing Co. of Fargo, North Dakota), since it didn't take much to sniff out samples of this popular type of beer. Whether it be on the festival floor or in a taproom around town, it seemed like NEIPAs were nothing if not omnipresent. That said, results varied, which makes me think that North Texas isn't the only region of the country still trying to get a handle on what these beers should taste like. In fact, I wonder if the lack of a discernible definition is what inspired the name of What the @$%& is Juice IPA from Pinthouse Pizza in Austin. In any case, the best I tried was probably Extra Extra Juicy Bits from Weldworks Brewing Co. of Greeley, Colorado.

The creativity of craft

As I tweeted almost immediately after taking a sip, the "what the ....? beer of the festival for me was Adam's Turkey Beer from 3 Freaks Brewery of Highlands Ranch, Colorado. This beer was straight up Stove Top Stuffing, which if the brewery's Twitter feed is to be believed, is exactly what was used in crafting the concoction. At the same time, I imagine more than a few people turned their noses up at Right Brain Brewery's Mangalitsa Pig Porter, seeing as how it was brewed with pig parts and all. But, like Wynkoop's Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout (the bull testicle beer) from a few years ago, if you didn't know ahead of time that the recipe for Pig Porter included whole smoked pig heads, I doubt you'd notice anything unusual while drinking it.

Taproom trips


Located in the Golden Triangle neighborhood of Denver, Lowdown Brewery + Kitchen offers just what the name implies, beer and food. I sampled and enjoyed both aspects of the place, which gets bonus points for having a few of it's own dedicated downtown parking spots. House beers are supplemented by guest taps, which during my visit included a swath of selections from Iowa's Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. Best beer: Otay, an oatmeal stout aged in rye whiskey barrels (Photos © 2017 Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).


Pike's Peak literally peeks out over the top of a mountain range sitting directly between it and Pike's Peak Brewing Co. in Monument, Colorado. And, while the majesty of the mountain doesn't quite translate based on the locale, the brewery does offer a welcoming patio with views of other surrounding elevations. The beer and light bites are worthwhile as well, made all the better if enjoyed out in the open air. Best beer: Hot Shot Green Chile Ale (Photos © 2017 Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).


Speaking of patios, it doesn't get much better than the one to be found at New Terrain Brewing Co. of Golden, Colorado (image above left). The brewery itself is set off in a quiet part of town, which makes it a great place to relax and get away from it all. Plus, if you're lucky, you might even run into the now-famous brewery cat, whose co-owner just happens to man the taps at New Terrain on occasion. Best beer: Floodland 2X IPA (Photo © 2017 Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

The last stop on my itinerary this year was the Bull & Bush Pub & Brewery in Glendale, Colorado (image above right). Around since 1971, this traditional English pub housed in a medieval-style building boasts a diverse selection of over 40 house beers on tap. I only stopped in long enough for lunch, but I hope to return someday to partake in a few more of the spot's easy-drinking English styles (Photo © 2017 Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).