Thursday, April 9, 2020

Lakewood releases new Barrelworks blend, Rest in Peaches

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Emerging from a sour beer wonderland set up in a small, nondescript South Garland warehouse, Lakewood Brewing Co. has released Rest in Peaches, the latest beer in the brewery's Barrelworks series.

"The cave," as founder Wim Bens calls it, is a room filled with an amazing aroma of sweet alcohol and wood. The walls are insulated up to a foot thick and are very cave-like indeed, with the air kept cool year-round at a constant temperature 64 degrees.

Barrels from all types of spirits, even absinthe, line the walls on racks in Lakewood's "sour room."

“Some of our barrels are three, four, and five years old," says Bens. "The beauty of our sour program is we have been building it slowly, and now we have a library of beers to blend.”

Sights from Lakewood's "sour room."

As for Rest in Peaches, Lakewood blended a variety of barrels and vintages of beers. The two base brews were an amber lager with peaches, aged four years in bourbon barrels, and a wheat wine aged three years in wine barrels.

Those were blended with more peaches and apricots prior to being packaged in 375ml champagne bottles. The bottles were then corked and capped and left to rest some more. After months and months of conditioning and refermentation, the result is a pleasantly tart beer with deep complexity.

“We don’t release many beers from our Barrelworks program,” says Bens. “This is a labor of love and time. The beer tells us when it’s done. So, that could be six months or five years.”

Rest in Peaches is currently only available to-go at the Lakewood Taproom Drive-Thru.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Vector stays the course, opens with curbside service

Keyframe: Sabro, a  DDH hazy IPA, was one of five beers on tap
during Vector's opening weekend (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

The newest North Texas brewing operation is a prime example of how things don't always go according to plan. Sure, every business overcomes obstacles, but who could have predicted the need to navigate a government shutdown followed by the nearly complete lockdown of the entire U.S. economy.

Such is the story of Vector Brewing, a Dallas-based project started by Craig and Veronica Bradley in early 2018. From the shutdown, which stalled small business loans in early 2019, to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic altering its opening date, Vector Brewing's path to pouring beer for Lake Highlands locals has been anything but straight and narrow.

Nevertheless, the Bradleys have chosen to "trust the journey" from the beginning, seeing setbacks as mere stepping stones on the road to making Vector Brewing a reality. So, naturally, they decided to push through the pandemic and open the only way possible in the current environment - that is, on a limited basis with curbside service to-go.

Along those lines, Vector Brewing debuted a pared-down menu to perspective patrons Friday evening. And, judging from early returns, Lake Highlands residents were ready. By Sunday night, the brewpub had run through 700 pounds of pizza dough, while filling nearly 1500 crowlers. In other words, Vector's beer and scratch pizzas were a hit.

"Opening amidst a pandemic certainly wasn’t the way we expected or wanted to open our doors," says Bradley, "but it was still amazing to see the amount of fans, friends, and family from all over who came out in support. We definitely didn’t expect that amount of love and generosity from so many, and we can’t thank everyone enough. It exceeded every expectation and then some."

Of course, this is just the start for Vector Brewing. Once things settle down in the world, an expanded menu will be in the offing, and there's still the matter of getting a chance to experience the ambiance of the brewpub's indoor and outdoor space (encompassing ~8000 total square feet, with 2300 square feet set aside for the patio).

Beer will flow continuously, though, with new recipes from head brewer and blender Tommy Gutierrez rolling out on the regular. His first run of fermentations included an American light lager, a German pilsner, a West Coast-style pale ale and two IPAs. As for what's in the queue, stouts, sour beers and more are also in the works. Of particular interest, Duotone, a smoothie fruit sour popular among fans (and myself) during preview tastings, is set to return as well.

"We're brewing a hoppy lager this week, followed by a DDH DIPA," reveals Bradley. "Vernal, our maibock is chugging away in the tank, and our imperial stout is getting close to finishing up, where a good portion will go into bourbon barrels and the rest will go on tap."

Beyond that, Bradley says, there's "more to come soon."

Vector Brewing will maintain to-go hours Friday-Sunday from 4-9 p.m. for the time being. Check the brewpub's social media channels (Facebook, Instagram) for updates going forward.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

White Labs introduces on-demand educational courses

Image credti: White Labs.

White Labs, a leading provider of fermentation products to the brewing industry for the past 25 years, is now offering its world-renowned educational courses online. In addition, as a way to provide brewers a forum to connect and learn as the industry feels the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the company is also offering free, online educational webcasts from now until April 30, 2020.

Each Wednesday at 10 a.m. PDT, White Labs will broadcast a 60-minute educational webcast for home and commercial brewers that provides brewing insights, tips, tricks and even a little industry history. The first half hour will a feature a presentation by an industry leader, while the second half hour will be set aside for viewer questions.

Coming up on April 1, White Labs president, founder and CEO Chris White will discuss yeast starters, trending strains and styles throughout the years.

“Much has changed since White Labs was founded 25 years ago, but what has stayed constant has been our commitment to education and how we prioritize helping our community grow and thrive. This is especially important during these uncertain times, which is putting a strain on many in our industry,” says White. “Our goal with these webcasts is to provide support to this vibrant community of brewers by helping them continue to learn about yeast strains and brew even better products.”

 To sign up for the free webcasts, visit WhiteLabs.com and subscribe to the White Labs email list. All webcasts will also be added to the White Labs YouTube page.

For those looking for even more yeast education, White Labs is launching an online education portal for brewers to access at their convenience. New on-demand videos are released every month covering a range of topics, including the flavors of fermentation, reusing yeast, considerations of spontaneous and inoculated fermentations, wild yeast and bacteria handling.

Course prices will vary based on the length and technical content, but are as little as $79. Those interested can learn more at WhiteLabs.com/education.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Series of beers to honor prominent Fort Worth homebrewer

Gret Etzel poses with awards won at the 2015 Bluebonnet Brew-Off (Brian Schoolcraft).

In the coming months, the North Texas craft beer community will come together to honor the memory of one of their own, while also raising money for a great cause.

Greg Etzel, a Fort Worth resident and well-known figure in the local brewing scene, passed away in November of 2019 after a brave fight with stomach cancer. Greg was not only an accomplished and award-winning homebrewer, he also worked on weekends at Texas Brewing Inc., a homebrew supply store in Haltom City, and was a primary host of the shop's Come & Brew It Radio podcast.

Surviving Greg are his wife, Trish, and two newly-adopted sons. They were joined by over 250 people at Greg's celebration of life, where a plan was conceived to help the family going forward. Appropriately enough, the idea developed as those in attendance raised a glass of Greg's homebrew in tribute.

Working from Greg's own recipes, eight area breweries will produce beers in remembrance of him, with proceeds from sales going to ACH Child & Family Services. Chosen by Trish, the Etzel's worked with this agency on the adoption of their two boys - both of whom are still under three years old.

The first beer in the series will be a German-style weizenbock, crafted by Cowtown Brewing Co. of Fort Worth. It's set to debut on Greg's birthday, which falls on Thursday, March 12. Ahead of the release, Cowtown co-founder Shawn Kidwell shared his thoughts on what it means to be a part of the project, as well as how he and Greg bonded over more than just beer.

"Greg was one of those special people you felt like you had known your entire life, no matter how long you had actually known him.  Although we bonded over beer, our conversations often covered a lot of topics that had nothing to do with beer.

"One thing we talked about most frequently was our kids. He and Trish had adopted two sons, and my wife and I were in the process of adopting our son, who was born the same day Cowtown opened for business. One thing I will never forget is the day Greg and Trish walked into Cowtown for the first time after we opened with a trunk full of baby clothes and baby gear that their sons had outgrown. That is just one example of the incredible kindness and generosity I think everyone that came into contact with him experienced.

"So, when the idea for this project started to form, there was no question that we wanted to be involved.  We're honored to be releasing the first beer in this series, but we're really looking forward to the rest of the releases this year as we continue to celebrate Greg's life."

As for future beers in the series, the list of recipes and release dates is as follows (subject to change):
  • March: Cowtown Brewing Co., Fort Worth - Weizenbock.
  • April: Brutal Beerworks, North Richland Hills - Bock.
  • May: Wild Acre Brewing Co., Fort Worth - IPA, Key Lime Pie Golden Sour
  • June: Funky Picnic Brewery & Café, Fort Worth - Honey Lager.
  • July: HopFusion Ale Works, Fort Worth - Baltic Porter, Czech Dark Lager.
  • August: Panther Island Brewing Co., Fort Worth - Chocolate Rye Stout.
  • September: Turning Point Beer, Bedford - TBA.
  • October: Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth - Almond Joy Stout.

Other breweries wishing to participate may reach out to Nigel Curtis of Texas Brewing Inc. via email at nigelcurtis@att.net.

Readers can also donate directly to ACH Child & Family Services by way of the company's website at achservices.org.