Thursday, January 23, 2020

Revolver opening second location at Texas Live, February 20

Image credit: Revolver Brewing.

Texas Live! has revealed details for Revolver Brewing BLDG 5, a taproom and brewery set to debut at the 200,000-square-foot dining, entertainment and sports complex in Arlington. The venue will open to the public on Thursday, February 20, and will feature a brew pub, tasting room and private event space.

Revolver was was founded in 2012 by father and son Ron and Rhett Keisler, and brew master Grant Wood. The brewery's original facility is located southwest of Fort Worth in Granbury, but the addition of BLDG 5 at Texas Live! allows Revolver to plant a flag closer to the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

In addition, the BLDG 5 space will house an experimental pilot brewery, offering guests a first look at new and innovative small batches of craft beer.

“At Revolver Brewing, we encourage people to ‘drink different’ and visitors to our BLDG 5 at Texas Live! will get a real sense of what we mean,” says co-founder Rhett Keisler. “You’ll find favorites like Blood & Honey there, but the BLDG 5 brewery also will be a playground for our brewers, a place where they can try new beers and get immediate feedback from beer drinkers.”

As Revolver continues to grow and expand across Texas and in neighboring states, its presence at Texas Live! presents an opportunity to introduce its beers to thousands of new people each month. Plus, BLDG 5 creates a special experience for people visiting Texas Live!

“Revolver Brewing is known for bringing a fresh perspective to world-class craft beer in the Dallas/Fort Worth region,” says Jim Watry, CEO of Texas Live! “BLDG 5 will create a completely unique experience and a special opportunity for our guests of age to enjoy brand new batches of beer created right here at Texas Live!”

Once it opens, visitors to BLDG 5 will be able to experience the brewing process while enjoying one-of-a-kind beers paired with specialty menu items, including fare from Lockhart Smokehouse. There will also be pet-friendly seating outdoors that flows into a courtyard overlooking the newly-opened Live! by Loews hotel.

Monday, January 20, 2020

LUCK leaves a lasting legacy of local support

Last call at LUCK (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Six years after introducing its concept of a craft beer-inspired kitchen, LUCK at Trinity Groves held its final service last night in Dallas.

Founding partners Jeff Dietzman, Daniel Pittman and Ned Steel established LUCK (an acronym for Local Urban Craft Kitchen) in 2013, with a mission to provide the best in local food and local beer. And make no mistake, LUCK was a local leader, especially when it came to promoting the North Texas beer industry.

From the beginning, LUCK touted a tap wall of 40 beers, all sourced from a brewery within 75 miles of its location. But, the restaurant's commitment to supporting local brewers went far beyond just serving local beer to its customers. It was about bringing awareness to area breweries by way of unique and varied events, as well as the simple act of being present on a day-to-day basis throughout the local scene.

On the event side, LUCK's beer and food pairing flights may be what's remembered most. Donut pairings were the biggest deal, by far, followed by Girl Scout cookies - both of which have been the catalyst for copycat events ever since. However, let's not forget other items LUCK featured on its flight pairing menu: bacon, bierrocks, British pies, cake balls, cheesecakes, chocolates, cookies, cookie dough, cupcakes, empanadas, German food, Halloween candy, mini pies, sushi, tacos, tamales, tarts and tostadas.

Those flights, along with local pint nights and beer dinners increased awareness of active breweries, but it's also important to note how LUCK brought attention to breweries looking to open in the future. Tastings with breweries in development were a staple of events like LUCKtoberfest, LUCKapalooza and the restaurant's anniversary gatherings. In fact, over the course of LUCK's existence, roughly 80 new brewing operations debuted in Dallas-Fort Worth, and nearly 30% of those sampled beer at LUCK prior to opening.

Then, of course, there was the Craft Beer and Chili Challenge, an annual event bringing together the entire craft beer community to benefit North Texas Food Bank. At its peak, upwards of 40 local breweries competed in this fun and lively cook-off event that was a highlight of the late-winter calendar.

As for being present, LUCK extended its reach in a variety of ways. The restaurant was the official snack supplier of the Dallas Brew Bus, while also being a staging point for the 6-Pack Trail's Design District Bike Cruise & Craft Brewery Tour. Plus, you'd have been hard-pressed over the last six years to attend a local beer-centric festival, anniversary party or grand opening event and not see one or more of the founders in attendance.

Moreover, a couple of partners even went all out - literally - for charity, but let's not revisit the LUCK-related visuals arising from that whole North Texas Craft Beerds (and Bellies!) Calendar thing. Hey, at least it helped raise money for a good cause.

Indeed, the North Texas beer scene is better today because of LUCK, and the industry should thank its lucky stars the project came along when it did. Upon opening, there were less than 20 area breweries. Today, there are up around 80, and there's no denying LUCK had a hand in helping to spur that growth.

Now, though, it's on to the next venture. As previously reported, the company behind LUCK is collaborating with Cedar Creek Brewery of Seven Points on a new brewpub called Cedar Creek Brewhouse & Eatery at Mustang Station. So, let's look forward to that, and hope a little bit of LUCK makes its way to Farmers Branch.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Collective Brewing Project announces indefinite closure in Fort Worth

Image credit: The Collective Brewing Project.

Effective immediately, The Collective Brewing Project has closed in Fort Worth.

Founders Ryan Deyo and Mike Goldfuss began brewing Collective's initial recipes out of a temporary facility in Haltom City during the summer of 2014. A permanent location debuted in Fort Worth's Near Southside neighborhood later that year, and from there Collective soon began making a name for itself as the premier wild and sour beer brewer in North Texas.

Along the way, Collective's reputation grew to the point that its products were added to the portfolio of noted import firm, Shelton Brothers, in late 2017. That move, along with subsequent partnerships with other distributors, allowed the brewery to extend its reach outside of Texas to more than a dozen other states across the country.

As for its beers, Collective produced a number of notable offerings by way of its Brett Series and the Foeder Fantasies line, but the brewery may best be remembered for two beers that gained national attention for their use of unusual ingredients - Cup O' Beer, a gose with ramen noodles, and Peep this Collab, a sour beer brewed with Marshmallow Peeps.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year in review: What a difference a decade makes

The 10-year challenge as it applies to the North Texas beer scene (Brian Brown/Beer In Big D).

Another year in beer has come to a close, and with it comes the end of a decade. With that in mind, it makes sense to start off the 2019 year in review by taking a moment to reflect on some things we didn't have in the North Texas beer scene back in 2009.

To start, taprooms didn't exist. Legislation allowing them wouldn't come until 2013, which meant the only way to drink beer at a manufacturing brewery was to pay to take a tour. With the tour model, which still hangs on in a few places, you essentially pay a fee for glassware and "complimentary" beer samples. Plus, up until just a few months ago, we had to just say no to beer to-go.

Next on the list, growler stations. Growlers were available at brewpubs, but the growler station as we know it today was a non-entity. They weren't strictly outlawed, but you couldn't offer growlers in a bar without a specific type of license (beer/wine retailer's permit - i.e. no liquor). Once that became clear, Craft and Growler was born, established in 2012.

There were also no large-scale beer festivals. The Flying Saucer had its seasonal beer fests (now billed as BeerFeast), but there wasn't anything like Big Texas Beer Fest, started in 2012, or even the Best Little Brewfest in Texas - an event that donates 100% of proceeds to charity.

From a packaging point of view, bottles where dominant. Canned craft beers existed, but no local breweries were canning their beers in 2009 (a point that may apply to all of Texas at the time). Now, it's practically candemonium when you walk down a grocery store aisle.

And, speaking of which, you couldn't sip on a beer while shopping for groceries in 2009 either.

Looking at what we did have, nine brewing operations were active in North Texas at the end of 2009 - Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Franconia Brewing Co., The Covey Restaurant & Brewery, Humperdinks Restaurant & Brewery (three locations) and Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant (two locations).

Nine...that's it, only two of which were manufacturing breweries.

Indeed, what a difference a decade makes. All of the things we didn't have above are now a part of our everyday beer lives. Of course, we've added some things, too. Like more breweries. A lot more (see the 10-year challenge graphic above).

Granted, that means a more crowded marketplace, which presents a different set of issues. Now, when we talk beer, we also discuss things like competition, expansion, consolidation, buyouts and more. Still, the industry is certainly in a better place than it was ten years ago, and here's hoping it never goes back to the way things were.

Now, let's talk about 2019...

The Big Story

Without question, the biggest development in 2019 was the advent of beer to-go in Texas. Debated during legislative sessions dating back to 2007, stakeholders finally came together earlier this year to hammer out details allowing manufacturing breweries to sell packaged products to consumers for off-premise consumption.

Over 25 area breweries were affected by the new law, which went into effect on September 1. And, while the long-term impact of the change remains to be seen, so far beer to-go has been a boon for local brewers. Among the benefits, brewers should see a boost to the bottom line thanks to the added revenue stream, and there's also the creation of new jobs, since many breweries have expanded their hours to accommodate increased taproom traffic.

Unfortunately, though, it seems every legal victory is met with a setback. In this case, Texas brewers lost an ongoing battle over the ability to charge a fee for distribution rights. The original suit to allow a fee was filed by Live Oak Brewing Co., Peticolas Brewing Co. and Revolver Brewing in 2014, after the Texas Legislature prohibited the practice during the 2013 session.

A District Court sided with brewers in August 2016, but the Texas Third Court of Appeals overturned the decision in December 2017. The matter was then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, who declined to review the case in May 2019.

The Business of Beer

On the business side of things, the year more or less began with the bankruptcy proceedings and subsequent sale of the Noble Rey brand to the same party that purchased Woodcreek Brewing Co. late in 2018. An association with Nocona Beer & Brewery also exists within this group, as Noble Rey recipes are now produced at Nocona's facility in Montague County.

In a similar vein, the year closes with an announcement regarding the sale of TKO Libations to a local entrepreneur who intends to refresh the brand and approach of the Lewisville-based brewery. Naturally, there's more to come on this topic, the details of which should become clearer in the new year.

Elsewhere, 3 Nations Brewing Co. completed a move from Farmers Branch to Carrollton, unveiling an impressive new facility in the latter city's downtown district in October. Also debuting new digs, the Dallas-based Manhattan Project Beer Co. overcame a number of obstacles and opened its own brewery and taproom in December. Manhattan Project had been operating under various alternating proprietorship agreements for the past three years.

As for the state of the brewing industry in Texas as a whole, data from the Brewers Association for 2018 shows Texas ranking eighth in total production, with 1.1 million barrels of beer produced, and third in economic impact, contributing nearly $5.1 billion to the U.S. economy.

North Texas on the National Stage
  • What's in a (beer) name?: One of the obstacles Manhattan Project encountered involved a controversy over the naming of Bikini Atoll, a beer the brewery has produced for years as an amateur and professional entity. Local, national and international media outlets covered the story, which centered on opposition of local Pacific Islanders still experiencing effects of nuclear testing done on the Marshall Islands site by the U.S. Government.
  • Pickle pandemonium: Pickle beers are not a new thing, but you wouldn't know it based on the response throughout Texas and beyond regarding Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer, a collaborative effort between Martin House Brewing Co. and fellow Fort Worth firm, Best Maid Products. A limited batch released in August sold out immediately, leading Martin House to change plans and adopt its Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer for perpetuity.

Comings and Goings

New breweries continue to open at a high rate in North Texas, but overall growth slowed a bit in 2019 due to an increased number of closures. The nine total closures represent the most ever in the craft beer era locally, though the number is skewed somewhat due to Humperdinks Restaurant & Brewery shuttering all three of its remaining Metroplex locations.

Still, barring a shift in fortunes, the region looks to continue its march towards the existence of potentially more than 100 area breweries with 78 operations currently active and well more than 30 in various stages of development.

  • Breweries: Bluffview Growler (Dallas, added brewing operations), Brutal Beerworks (North Richland Hills), Deep Ellum Funkytown Fermatorium (Fort Worth), Howling Mutt Brewing Co. (Denton), Krootz Brewing Co. (Gainesville), Odd Muse Brewing Co. (Farmers Branch), Soul Fire Brewing Co. (Roanoke), Westlake Brewing Co. (Dallas).
  • Brewpubs: By the Horns Brewing Co. (Mansfield), Funky Picnic Brewery & Café (Fort Worth), Walking Beam Brewing Co. (Bridgeport).
Brand Debuts:
  • Brewing under an alternating proprietorship: Toasty Bros., Trinity Forest Brewing Co.
  • Brewing under license: False Idol Brewing Co. (facility under construction in Farmers Branch).
  • Breweries: Good Neighbor Brews (Wylie), Old Town Brewhouse (Lewisville), Rabbit Hole Brewing (Justin), TKO Libations (Lewisville).
  • Brewpubs: Humperdinks Restaurant & Brewery (Arlington, Dallas - Greenville Ave, Dallas - NW Highway), Landon Winery (Greenville, ceased brewing operations), Small Brewpub (Dallas).
Source: Individual research.
The Year in Beer
  • Style trends: The biggest style trend in the brewing industry might not have anything to do with beer at all. In fact, it might be hard seltzer. Sought-after as a lower calorie, low-carb option, The Collective Brewing Project of Fort Worth was the first local brewery to offer a hard seltzer this past summer, but Deep Ellum Brewing Co. and Texas Ale Project of Dallas soon followed.

    If sticking to beer, however, brews fermented with kveik yeast are catching on in the local market. A yeast beast born of Norwegian origin, kveik strains offer significant practical advantages for brewers, while also having flavor profiles that fit well with many of today's popular beer styles.
  • North Texas award winnersClick here to review all of the award-winning beers from 2019. Coverage includes results from the Great American Beer Festival, European Beer Star Competition, United States Beer Tasting Championship, U.S. Open Beer Championship, NABA International Beer Awards, NorCal Brew Competition, Australian International Beer Awards, San Diego International Beer Competition, Los Angeles International Beer Competition, Aro Rojo International Beer Competition and Best of Craft Beer Awards.
  • The 2019 list of Beer in Big D's preferred pours (new-to-market, or newly-discovered beers some blogger found to be particularly enjoyable): Armadillo Bourbon Barrel Brunch Money, BlackMan/Cedar Creek Smoking Lit, BrainDead We Are Your Overlords, Celestial Groovitational Pull, Community Irish Coffee Legion, Firestone Walker XXIII Anniversary Ale, Saint Arnold 25th Anniversary Grand Cru, Turning Point Endgame and White Rock Two Imperial Stout.

Cheers and Happy New Year!