Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your Companion Guide to Untapped Dallas 2014

Image credit: Untapped Festival
There is no game more synonymous with drinking beer than darts. And, honestly, a solitary dart and a printout of the full beer list tacked to the wall are just about all the supplies you'll need to get you through this year's Untapped Festival in Dallas. You know the drill: close your eyes, aim, fire, drink, repeat. Though, I suppose a bottle of water and a ride home might be worth having, too.

In any case, as the banner states you'll be able to choose from over 300 beers supplied by more than 80 breweries while enjoying live music from banks like Cake, Shovels & Rope, Deltron 3030, The Polyphonic Spree, Rogue Wave and others.

As I've done in the past, I've created a beer geek breakdown below outlining some of the best beers that will be available, as well as a few new tastes and limited pours. It should be noted that this event is being put on in association with NTX Beer Week, and as such a number of brewers have crafted special beers for the occasion. These include Lakewood Manimal, A Lost Epic from Peticolas and Wood-Aged Nightwatch from Grapevine. There's also the Lakewood/Rahr collaboration called DFW, and a single hop pale ale from Southern Tier called XNTX Special Ale: Brewed for the Good People of North Texas.

It all goes down Saturday, November 1, at Gilley's in Dallas. General Admission and Beer + Concert tickets are still available by way of the festival website (VIP is sold out).

Of course, nothing could be better than attending the event for free and it just so happens I have a pair of Beer + Concert tickets to give away. To win, simply share which beer you're most eager to try in the comments section below, or by replying to the post on either Facebook or Twitter. I'll choose a random winner at noon on Thursday, October 23.

Cheers and good luck!

Whale watching: Brews from the Beer Advocate top 250  

#3. Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout
#9. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
#17. Bourbon County Brand Stout
#28. Founders Breakfast Stout
#34. Bourbon County Brand Barleywine
#86. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
#112. Ballast Point Victory at Sea
#192. Jester King Aurelian Lure
#219. Stone Ruination IPA
#233. Boulevard Love Child #4

Perfect pours: Top rated beers (100/100) on Ratebeer

Epic Big Bad Baptist
Firestone Walker: Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA, Velvet Merkin
Founders:  Porter
Great Divide:  Oak Aged Yeti
New Belgium: La Folie
North Coast:  Barrel Aged Rasputin XV
Sierra Nevada: Hoptimum
Southern Tier: Choklat
Unibroue:  Trois Pistoles

Best of the rest: Close enough to perfect (Ratebeer scores out of 100))

Avery: Rumpkin (99), Lillikoi Kepolo (98)
Ballast Point:  Dorado Double IPA (99), Grapefruit Sculpin (99), Grunion Pale Ale (98)
Boulevard:  Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (99)
Brasserie d'Achouffe: Houblon Chouffe (99)
Brooklyn:  Black Chocolate Stout (99)
Deschutes:  Black Butte XXVI (98), Fresh Squeeze IPA (98), Mirror Mirror (99)
Dogfish Head:  Burton Baton (99), 60 Minute IPA (98), 120 Minute IPA (99)
Epic: Imperial IPA (98)
Firestone Walker:  Velvet Merlin (98)
Founders:  Centennial IPA (99), Dirty Bastard (98)
Goose Island:  Juliet (99), Lolita (99), Madame Rose (99)
Great Divide: Fresh Hop Pale Ale (98), Hibernation (98)
Green Flash:  Double Stout (99), Green Bullet (98), Le Freak (98)
Harpoon:  Leviathan IPA (98)
Jolly Pumpkin: Oro de Calabaza (99), Luciernaga "The Firefly" (99)
Karbach: Bourbon Barrel Hellfighter (99)
Lagunitas:  A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' (99), Imperial Red (98),
Lakewood: The Temptress (98)
Liefmans: Goudenband (98)
New Holland: Dragon's Milk (99)
Odell:  IPA (98), Mountain Standard Double Black IPA (99)
Ommegang:  Gnomegang (98), Three Philosophers (99)
Oskar Blues:  Dale's Pale Ale (98), Deviant Dale's (99)
Real Ale: The Kraken (98)
Santa Fe: Imperial Java Stout (98)
Sierra Nevada:  Narwhal (99), Northern Hemisphere Harvest (99), Torpedo (98)
Ska: Modus Hoperandi (98)
Smuttynose: Robust Porter (99)
Uinta:  Cockeyed Cooper (98)
Unibroue:  La Fin du Monde (98), Maudite (99)
Victory:  HopDevil (99)

Texas Award Winners:

Armadillo Ale Works: Quakertown Stout (2014 GABF Gold)
Community: Public Ale (2013-14 GABF Gold), Witbier (2014 World Beer Cup Gold)
Grapevine: Sir William's English Brown Ale (2014 GABF Gold)
Oasis: London Homesick Ale (2014 GABF Gold)
Pedernales: Lobo Negro (2014 GABF Silver)
Real Ale: Firemans #4 (2012 GABF Silver), Hans Pils (2012 GABF Silver)
Saint Arnold: Endeavour (2012 World Beer Cup Silver)

Rare breeds: Market debuts, seasonals and limited editions

(512): Six (Dubbel)
903: Land of Milk & Honey
Abita: Cask-conditioned Abbey Ale
Community: Ascension Vanilla Coffee Porter
Deep Ellum: Belgian IPA, Hatch Chile Stout
Franconia: Oak Aged Fallin' Bock, Tripel Dunkel
Grapevine: Dry Hopped Lakefire Pale Ale, Wood-Aged Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout
Independence: 10th Anniversary Dry-Hopped Barleywine
Lakewood: Bokkenrijders, Bourbon Barrel Temptress, Holiday Bonus Festive Porter,
                    Manimal Red Farmhouse Ale, DFW: A Collaboration of Two Breweries
Martin House: Turtle Power Blackberry Altbier
Oskar Blues: Barrel-Aged Sour Cherry Old Chub
Peticolas: Dry-Hopped Sit Down or I'll Sit You Down, Dry-Hopped Velvet Hammer
                  Bourbon Oak Alfred Brown, A Lost Epic Tripel
Rabbit Hole: Off With Your Red
Rahr & Sons: Midnight Cab, Visionary Pumpkin
Real Ale: Scots Gone Wild
Revolver: Fracker Barrel One, Sangre y Miel
Saint Arnold: Divine Reserve 14
Southern Tier: XNTX Special Ale (brewed especially for NTX Beer Week)
Texas Ale Project: 50 Foot Jackrabbit, Somethin' Shady

Oldies but goodies: Vintage brews

2004 Alaskan Smoked Porter
2012 Brooklyn Monster
2013 Saint Arnold Pumpkinator
2013 SanTan Sex Panther

Friday, October 17, 2014

Franconia's Tripel Dunkel returns in Bordeaux and bottle

Image credit: Franconia Brewing Company (click to enlarge).
In May of this year, the Franconia Brewing Company released the final beer in a series of brews created to celebrate its fifth anniversary in 2013. The beer was dubbed the Tripel Dunkel, and it took the brewery's standard Dunkel and turned it on its ear. Not only was it fermented with a Belgian yeast strain, to provide added dark fruit complexity, the grain bill was bumped up to add more fermentable sugars allowing the alcohol percentage to reach 10.4%.

Like Franconia's Double IPA, another of the anniversary brews, Tripel Dunkel was originally intended to be a one time only release. However, the beer will return this November in more ways than one. Around Thanksgiving, fans of the brewery will be able to pick up the Amazing Tripel Dunkel (as per the attached product label) in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles for the first time. Prior to that, though, will come a version specially created for NTX Beer Week.

Bordeaux Aged Tripel Dunkel gets its name from taking the base beer and aging it on French Oak. The treatment adds distinctive wood tones and a light vanilla flourish to the finish of the beer, complementing not only the chocolate and roasted malt overtones, but the underlying fruit from the yeast as well.

Notice the alternate spelling of Tripple Dunkle above, which is based on regional
variations (credits: Taverna Rossa, Franconia Brewing Company, click to enlarge).
Your first chance to try the Bordeaux edition comes on Saturday, November 1, at Taverna Rossa in Plano. The craft beer and pizza parlor will tap it during their 1-Year Anniversary Shin-Dig, which will feature an expanded patio area converted into a Franconia Brewing Company Beer Garden. As an added incentive to attend this event, all proceeds from sales in the beer garden will benefit Minnie's Food Pantry, a charity which helps feed the hungry in Plano.

Should you miss out on the debut, a second chance happens during Franconia's 2014 Open Haus on Wednesday, November 5 from 6-9 p.m. Put on in association with NTX Beer Week, the festivities will include tappings of both the regular and Bordeaux Aged Tripel Dunkel, the brewery's seasonal Fallin' Bock (also available in bottles for the first time this week) and another holdover from the anniversary series, Champagne Ale. Plus, I'll be in attendance along with co-author Paul Hightower to sign and promote our new book North Texas Beer: A Full-Bodied History of Brewing in Dallas, Fort Worth and Beyond. Tickets will be $10 cash, at the door.

Cheers and see you there!

Monday, October 6, 2014

More than medals on display at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival

Image credit: Brewers Association

Most, quite naturally, associate the annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF) with the competition, and the awarding of gold, silver and bronze medals coveted by craft brewers throughout the country. It's also a time, though, for the industry to come together and take stock of where it stands in terms of growth and to recognize and identify factors that may be changing which will affect the market in years to come.

Take the demographics of craft beer lovers, for instance. In 2001, the median craft beer lover was a highly-educated white male, aged 39 with a relatively high income. For sheer lack of available choices, he was geographically concentrated, likely living in states typically associated with having a high density of craft breweries like California, Oregon and Colorado.

Now, over twelve years later, diversity measures tell us young women between the ages of 21 and 34 make up 15% of the total craft beer volume. High socioeconomic status still prevails, but the bottom 60% of households (by income) now consume 40% of craft beer being produced.

There is more geographic diversity as well. In addition to high concentrations of breweries in the aforementioned states, increasing numbers are being seen in localities across America. The Brewers Association now estimates that 75% of legal drinking age adults live within 10 miles a brewery. Here in North Texas, with the recent opening of Shannon Brewing in Keller, the pending debut of Bearded Eel in northwest Fort Worth (this weekend), and other breweries under construction in Dallas (Small Brewpub, Braindead Brewing), Allen (Nine Band) and Denton (Audacity Brew House), more and more local residents will soon be able to say the same. (Note that over a half-dozen other breweries are also being built, but those additions completely overlap with areas already covered.)

Left: United States brewery population density (Brewers Association).
Right: Brewery population density in North Texas. Red circles represent pending openings
that will expand coverage (Google Maps, www.freemaptools.com).
Click to enlarge.

It's also interesting to note that breweries aren't just concentrated in Dallas and Fort Worth. Instead, they are spreading out across the area. It's somewhat reminiscent of Colorado, where virtually every small town you visit is home to a brewery. While we still have large municipalities in the Metroplex that are without a brewery, small towns in Colorado like Louisville (population 19,588) and Lafayette (population 26,784) have two each. It's been said before, but it's worth saying again...there is still much work to be done locally.

Left: High gravity beers are on tap at Gravity Brewing in Louisville, Colorado.
Right: Craft beer meets comfort food at Post Brewing in Lafayette, Colorado.

Of course, more people drinking craft beer means there must be more people brewing it.  However, it's not something happening strictly on the professional level. Statistics from the American Homebrewers Association, which has a membership of 43,000 people, say there are 1.2 million homebrewers in the United States. And, for the most part, these are the people opening new craft breweries. Evidence of such was in full view this weekend during the GABF awards ceremony, when a houseful of hands raised in response to the question of how many got their start in homebrewing.

A packed house at the 2015 GABF awards ceremony.
As for the professionals, there are now more than 3100 active brewing operations in the U. S., numbers which haven't been seen since before Prohibition. Of those, 1309 submitted 5507 entries into this year's competition. A total of 222 judges from 10 countries evaluated these brews, awarding medals in 90 categories (not including the Pro-Am competition). Among new brewers, 52 first-time entering breweries won medals, while 16 Texas breweries (both new and established) also counted themselves among the winners. India Pale Ale was once again the most-entered category (279 entries), followed by Herb and Spice Beer (150 entries), American-Style Pale Ale (145 entries) and American-Style Amber/Red Ale (140 entries).

The growth of the competition has been so much over the past few years that the Brewers Association announced plans to add 90,000 square feet of exhibitor space for GABF 2015. This is on top of the 300,000 square feet already being utilized at the Colorado Convention Center. The move will allow more breweries to serve beer in the festival hall (only 710 participated this year) and presumably more tickets to be sold to hopeful attendees.

Regarding North Texas, after this weekend there will be 30 active brewing operations in the area (19 physical production breweries, 10 brewpubs counting multiple locations, 1 licensed brand). This year, members of this group brought home 4 gold and 2 bronze medals from GABF. A three-year running count has North Texas brewers winning 7 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals. Repeat winners include the Peticolas Brewing Company (gold in 2012 and 2014), Community Beer Company (gold in 2013, gold and bronze in 2014, including back-to-back wins for Public Ale) and Rahr & Sons (silver in 2012, bronze in 2014).

There has truly never been a better time to drink craft beer locally, and while growth numbers are one thing, results like those above tell me it's high time to start taking North Texas beer seriously.

This year's North Texas winners:

Armadillo Ale Works: Gold medal in the Imperial Stout category for Quakertown Stout.
Community Beer Company: Gold medal in the Extra Special Bitter category for Public Ale.
                                                    Bronze in the Coffee Beer category for Ascension Coffee Porter.
Grapevine Craft Brewery: Gold medal in the English-Style Brown Ale for Sir William's English Brown Ale.
Peticolas Brewing Company: Gold medal in the Aged Beer category for 2012 Great Scot!
Rahr & Sons: Bronze medal in the German-Style Doppelbock or Eisbock category for The Regulator.