Monday, May 20, 2013

Another Brew Riot in the books

Image credit:  Spillers Group

Let's start with one simple truth: Brew Riot is getting bigger. It wasn't a hard conclusion to draw, mind you, as the line to get in was longer (it snaked far down 7th Street for a time), there were more homebrews to sample (though, possibly a few less pros), and it was asses to elbows along some stretches of Bishop Arts (that span of 8th Street west of Bishop Avenue was an absolute beast to navigate).

All of this isn't a bad thing, having more beer and more people come together to celebrate craft beer, but the effect is that coveted brews had to be acquired quickly as kegs floated early and often. More beer also meant not all selections were tapped at the same time, a development that had some wishing for some sort of map or guidepost to help them stagger their way back to a favorite brewer. "Where was that such and such brewery again?"

I will say, though, that more emphasis needs to be placed on glass rinsing. Some booths were diligent in this respect, while others were not. A clean glass is important, perhaps even more so when much of the tasting involves homebrews which, quite frankly, can have flavor profiles ranging anywhere from floor cleaner to phenomenal.

Surveying the beer, to no one's surprise IPAs were the most abundant, though there were quite a number of milk stouts and bourbon treatments. However, I wouldn't say there were a tremendous amount of heavy, dark brews, but then again I didn't make it around to try every beer. If anyone did, they should probably call Guinness (the record book not the beer, though they were once one in the same).

Dead Cowboy and Noble Rey, each intending to open in the not-too-distant future, both offered a glimpse of potential offerings. Dead Cowboy, who also took home the People's Choice prize, sampled what may be their opening day lineup in Ruby Red Wheat, East Texas Pine IPA, Texas Crude Stout and Texas Sunset cider. At the Noble Rey tent, they poured Hoppily Ever After (a märzen-style lager) and Steam Punk (a California common a la Anchor Steam). They also mentioned ongoing work to secure a location in Oak Cliff, as opposed to one in Grapevine as originally planned.

As for the day's favorites, a handful are noted below. I also had a hand in judging the IPA category, so you can infer from that what you will.

Mossberg Brewing Bitter Embargo: 
Always strong in the sour category, this group was recognized for their Cherry Weisse and Pink n' Petit (which I sadly missed). That said, I thought their Bitter Embargo, an Americanized ESB, was a solid take on a traditionally British style.

East Fork Double D Milk Stout: The best of the milk stouts I tried, what I liked most about this brew was that its welcoming aromas of light roast, dark chocolate and a hint of sweetness translated directly to the flavor.

Dallas Homebrew Collective Mango Habanero IPA: Drink an IPA with a spicy meal and it tends to amp up the heat, so you can imagine how tricky it can be to add hot peppers to this type of beer. Here it was done well, with the soft, sweet character of the mango helping to balance a well-tempered burn.

Knowles Brothers #Hashtag DIPA: Citra hops are a key ingredient in this DIPA, as well as in a tasty Cascadian dark the brothers call Hop Freakness. Hashtag, brewed in honor of many of the key players in the Dallas craft beer community, had a nice mix of tropical fruit, florals and fresh herbs, to go along with a prominent but not overwhelming bitterness.

Night Owl Half a Laugh Nitro: Ever since I overlooked this beer last year, I've been told over and over again how it was the belle of the ball among beer geeks. Now that I've tried it, I will say that this Vietnamese coffee stout lives up to the hype. Smooth, creamy, roasty, good.

Ole 47 Vanboozled While their Divinity Imperial IPA (an oak-aged bourbon IPA) was a worthy brew as well, my favorite beer from this year's festival was this bourbon oak vanilla porter. Well crafted, it had just the right amount of barrel character to enhance the added vanilla and subtle roast of the underlying style.


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