Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Deep Ellum's not yet two, but it's year three for the 'Q'

Image credit: Deep Ellum Brewing Company

Back before the Deep Ellum Brewing Company (DEBC) became the first Dallas craft brewery to open in almost 15 years, they made themselves known to the world by way of BrewBQ. It turned out to be symbolic, since in the two years that have followed DEBC has worked to bring attention to other soon-to-be brewers by inviting them to sample their suds at this now annual event. Martin House and Armadillo Ale Works were introduced during the last go around, with Armadillo's appearance being a foreshadowing of a budding partnership. Both returned this past Sunday, setting up alongside a new brewery unearthed from down the Rabbit Hole.

DEBC also showed that size really does matter, at least when it comes to housing hundreds of people under one roof. Having upped their square footage considerably compared to a year ago, previous grumbles about cramped space were literally a thing of the past. It was almost too easy to move around, at least for those of us who may have inadvertently stumbled upon an impromptu meeting of the minds in the bowels of the place. In any case, bigger was definitely better.

Food was provided by Pecan Lodge of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives fame, and then later by Dickey's due to some unforeseen supply issues. I'd be willing to bet this was more a result of gluttony than anything else, which likely means we'll see a return to controlled portions in the future. Other than that, the beer was good and atmosphere electric, thanks in part to some newly powered circular signage.

As for the beer, we'll go the usual route and present the themes of the day:

Farmhouse here, farmhouse there, farmhouse, farmhouse everywhere

Maybe it's just me, but apparently the soon-to-be rising mercury has inspired local brewers to come together for a sort of craft beer barn raising. I mean, how else to explain the sudden abundance of brews of the farmhouse variety? BrewBQ featured a foursome of these frothy fermentations, which in no particular order included Deep Ellum Farmhouse Wit, Armadillo Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Martin House River House Saison and Rabbit Hole Wonderlust. Of these, River House and Wonderlust seem to be the most stylistic, with Farmhouse Wit (saison/witbier) and Greenbelt (saison/weizen) being of the hybrid variety. Which is good, better or best? As with any beer, it all comes down to personal taste. If I'm going by the book, though, River House has been at the top of my list since day one.

Coming out of their 'Hole'

On the topic of Rabbit Hole, in addition to Wonderlust they served up 10/6, an earthy and herbal English-style IPA with a saltiness that had me thinking water treatment, along with Deuce, a more malty than bitter take on a Düsseldorf altbier. Anyone having spent time in their own little wonderland will recognize the Mad Hatter reference in the first, it having to do with a sign attached to that character's topper indicating the price of a hat to be 10 shillings and 6 pence.

What's so creamy about cream ale?

If there was ever a single beer style that defies its own description it has to be the cream ale. Most are corny not creamy, something that results from the use of corn or flaked maize in the mash. On this point, the guys from Armadillo shared some thoughts as to how to give this type of beer a bit more of its namesake character. Imagine a cream ale, like the one they were serving on Sunday, with added vanilla and a hint of caramel. Should they follow through on this idea, I dare say the resulting beer might actually be true to its name.

Sometimes you feel like a nut

Armadillo also brought out a new version of their brown ale. Attendees from last year's BrewBQ may remember Pinckneyville Stump, a pecan-infused brown ale named after what's left of a grove of trees that once served as Denton's first county seat. Pecans don't make it into this incarnation, but what remains is a solid brown, complete with caramel malt, nutty undertones and a touch of roasted bitterness.

That's just peachy

Brand and Sales Ninja Tait Lifto swears the hop bill of the brewery's flagship IPA wasn't any different prior to being given the bourbon barrel treatment. That may be true, but all I know is that what emerged in the form of DEBC's Bourbon Barrel IPA was über fresh, bright and intensely peachy. Whatever happened in that barrel worked, since in my mind this was by far the best small-batch beer of the day.


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