Friday, February 21, 2014

Bridgeport produces first volume of new Trilogy

Image credit:  Bridgeport Brewing Company

Considering the day-to-day challenge of keeping up with all that's new in craft beer, it's easy to forget about those breweries that have been around since...well, before some of you were born.  It's generally accepted that the start of the revolution we're all enjoying actually happened almost forty years ago. Granted, there aren't a lot of breweries still in existence from those early days, but those that are have unquestionably stood the test of time.

Image credit:
Bridgeport Brewing Company
One such brewery is Portland's Bridgeport Brewing Company, makers of Hop Czar, Stumptown Tart and Old Knucklehead. They're also Oregon's oldest, and in 2014 they'll be celebrating their thirtieth year in the business with a line of anniversary brews called Trilogy.

First out of the kettle is Trilogy 1, a Crystal Dry-Hopped Pale Ale paying homage to the role hops have played in defining the craft beer culture of the Pacific Northwest. If that description has images of hop cones dancing in your head, understand that this beer focuses more on the flavor and aroma contributions of that ingredient than it does on bitterness. There's some nice complexity with notes of fresh citrus, resiny pine, florals and dried grass, but you shouldn't drink this beer expecting your tongue to curl up and go hide in a corner somewhere after every sip.

Naturally, this lends itself to a more balanced brew, with Munich and rye malts contributing a bready and spicy element to the backbone of the beer. Trilogy 1 is still hop-forward, as advertised, but it accomplishes that characterization by way of a smooth, clean pale ale that is nothing if not sessionable with an ABV of only 5.2%.

Future beers in the Trilogy series will include an IPA brewed in collaboration with Phil Sexton, a past company brewmaster who created Bridgeport's flagship beer of the same style, and a yet to-be-determined creation that "looks to the future of craft brewing."  The introduction of Trilogy 3 later this year will coincide with the re-release of the first two beers, with fans of the brewery being asked to vote on their favorite. The winner will return as a year-long offering in 2015.

Look for Trilogy 1 in 6-packs of 12-ounce bottles at a better beer store near you.

* Samples provided courtesy of R/West and the Bridgeport Brewing Company.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hallertau to hold first public tasting, February 15

Image credit: Hallertau Brewing Company
Aspiring brewery owner Don Tedlock is a man with a plan. He's developed a brewing philosophy, talked to suppliers, chosen packaging and created mock-up designs for his labels and branding. Of course, this all probably sounds familiar, especially to current brewery owners or those thinking of opening one down the road. Where he intends to be different is in the beer.

Hallertau Brewing Company, should it come to be, will focus exclusively on "big" beers targeting the craft connoisseur. Every product, whether it be a year-round offering, seasonal or one-off will be barrel-aged and have an alcohol percentage in the area of 10% or more. Tedlock is eschewing the craft beer starter kit (a blonde, a brown and a red) in an effort to create his own niche in the ever-expanding North Texas marketplace.

Packaging will be in 750mL flip-top bottles, with labeling designed to be both classic and elegant. He's looking to tap into high-end establishments, with hopes that one day you'll be able to share a bottle of his beer in some of the area's more exclusive restaurants. Such places are generally known for their rich, culinary creations and he wants to provide options for pairing them with big, flavorful beers.

What Tedlock doesn't have yet is a location. He wants to end up in the northern part of town, preferably near Frisco. Thus far, he's scouted sites along FM 423 on the city's western border. As for the beer, when I met with him a few weeks back he served samples from a number of test batches. Each is still a work in progress in terms of recipe formulation and style definition, but the most refined was his Baltic Porter barrel-aged on American oak.

Needless to say, the brewery is still in the very early stages of development, but that's where you come in. Tedlock wants to know what you think. It's not just about whether or not you like the beer, it's also about whether or not you think he has a viable vision. Can a brewery focused solely on "big" beers make it in the Metroplex?

Let him know your thoughts on Saturday, February 15, at Jack Mac's Swill & Grill in Dallas. He'll be there from 1-3 p.m. sampling four beers, answering questions and collecting your feedback.

* UPDATE: As of January 2017, Hallertau has ceased development.*

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cedar Creek debuts Special Release, preps IPA

The Cedar Creek Brewery has announced plans for a series of special releases in 2014.  First among these is their Belgian Style Dubbel, which this past October brought home a gold medal from the Great American Beer Festival.  Beginning this week, it will be available for a limited time in 4-pack boxes of 16-ounce cans.

Subsequent beers in the series will be come out quarterly.  Next in line is a chocolate coffee porter brewed with locally-sourced beans from Ennis, to be followed by a saison and an English-style barleywine.

Also in the works is a forthcoming year-round offering called Dankosaurus (6.8% ABV, 70 IBUs).  Inspired by west coast IPAs, this beer features an experimental hop currently known as "05256".  This new variety adds notes of peach, apricot, tangerine and pine, along with an herbal quality.  Look for it on tap and in cans sometime late March.

The brewery in Seven Points continues to grow in its second year, evidenced by the addition of three 30 bbl fermentation tanks in November.  They've also remodeled a portion of their space to accommodate a taproom, which is now open Friday 4-9 p.m., Saturday 12 - 9 p.m. and Sunday 12 - 6 p.m.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pro-am beers on tap Saturday at Martin House

Brewer for a Day Justin Foley with Martin House owner Cody Martin
Image credit: Martin House Brewing

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't remember too many times a North Texas craft brewery has teamed up with a local homebrewer/consumer to produce a "pro-am" beer. Franconia has done a couple in association with the PantegoFEST Homebrew Competition, but the brews were released on a very exclusive basis. Rahr has maybe had a few as special tour tappings, and then there's the Best in Show winner from Deep Ellum's Labor of Love. The Dubya, a recipe created by the Mox Nix Brewery out of Grapevine, is expected to be released prior to next year's event.

This weekend, though, you'll have an opportunity to try two such creations. Rockwall's Justin Foley won the chance to be "Brewer for a Day" in a contest sponsored by Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket during North Texas Beer Week. He teamed up with Martin House owner Cody Martin a couple of weeks back, and the fruits of their labor are fermenting away as we speak.

You won't see this on the Budweiser tour.
Image credit: Justin Foley

Foley had the option of doing a collaborative brew or shadowing Martin for a day to learn more about the process and equipment. Martin noted that Foley was already "very knowledgeable about beer", so the decision was made to work together on the creation of two small-batch beers. Foley chose the ingredients for each brew himself, basing them on his "love of pairing craft beer with food." Martin worked up the all-grain recipes, and they proceeded to brew both beers in a single day on the brewery's pilot system.

What the...? Spent grains, hops and herbs.
Image credit: Justin Foley
Smokey D. RIPA - If you're not sure how to pronounce it, maybe this will help: it's an amalgamation of Smokey the Bear and Jack the Ripper. Say it with me now, smōk-ē dē rip-uh. It's a smoked double rye IPA which contains 15% rye malt and looks to be finishing up with and ABV of around 8.5%. Martin says the final gravity came up just short of where he'd like it to be and the smoke character isn't quite as strong as they'd hoped, but the result is still quite tasty. Best paired with, what else, Texas BBQ.

Kumite - This Asian-themed saison may have you saying "What the Phó?", but that's exactly where the inspiration for this beer came from. Martin hand-toasted fresh coconut with a blow torch, while Foley hand-chopped all the herbs and peppers. Can you say hand-crafted beer, Mr. Miller? What about you, Mr. Busch? No? Anyway, Martin's take on this one is that the "Kaffir lime [leaves], lemongrass, and coconut shine, with Thai basil, cilantro and Thai chilies rounding it out nicely."

Want to try one? You'll have to head to Fort Worth on Saturday, February 8, for the regular tour at Martin House. First pour will be at 2 p.m., but the yield on each beer is expected to be less than 20 gallons. In other words, get there early!