Friday, February 27, 2015

Cedar Creek moving operations, plans Memorial Day Grand Re-Opening

(Left-to-right): Andy & Shalene Jacobson, Head Brewer Damon Lewis,
and owners Cindy & Jim Elliot (Cedar Creek Brewery).

In yet another example of the seemingly unstoppable growth of the craft beer industry in and around North Texas, the Cedar Creek Brewery of Seven Points has announced it is moving operations.

According to a press release, with prior year production reaching 1600 barrels and a goal of brewing upwards of 3000 barrels in 2015, the current building is simply no longer adequate. For this reason, construction began this week on a new space at 336 E. Cedar Creek Parkway, just a few doors down from the brewery's current address. After renovations are complete, the new building will better suit the growing company's needs. In addition, with nearly two acres of land to work with, there is plenty of room for additional expansion.

Cedar Creek's new location in Seven Points, TX. (Cedar Creek Brewery)

Seen as a weekend destination for locals and out-of-town visitors, the brewery's current taproom has become a popular hangout since Cedar Creek opened in the summer of 2012. The new location will provide a better interior layout, with more restrooms and an expanded bar able to accommodate 16 taps. Not only that, but the brewery's biergarten is expected to triple in size and there are even plans to offer food service from an expanded kitchen sometime this year.

Talking about the history attached to the new building - which includes time spent as a skating rink and once being used as a filming location for the 1981 Robert Duvall film, Tender Mercies - brewery owner Jim Elliot says, "There is great history and awesome memories for many local people of the building we will be remodeling. Our intent is to keep as much of the old place as possible and re-purpose and reuse as much of the interior as we can."

Commenting further, Elliot adds, "I am very excited about the new location. The City of Seven Points has been a big supporter of our business and has partnered with us to make this move."

Cedar Creek plans to host a Grand Re-Opening on Memorial Day Weekend. Details will be revealed at a later date.

A taste of Ranger Creek's new Texas Bourbon Barrel series

The first of Ranger Creek's new Bourbon
Barrel line of beers (Brian Brown).

When Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling opened its doors in late 2010, it became the first business of its kind in the State of Texas. Being part brewery, part distillery, it was only natural to assume that barrel-aged beers would become a mainstay of their portfolio. Indeed, in the years that have followed, the brewing side of the business has put out a handful of these types of beers, but up until now there hasn't been anything along the lines of a recurring barrel-aged offering. That's expected to change, however, with the introduction of the brewery's new Texas Bourbon Barrel series.

According to co-owner Mark McDavid, a regular or year-round bourbon barrel beer has always been part of the plan. Sharing what could be thought of as a company motto, he says he and his fellow partners are "most intrigued and excited by products that showcase the relationship between beer and whiskey." As to why develop a standalone series now, as opposed to in the past, it has as much to do with timing as it does a desire to build on the success of prior barrel-aged brews like Small Batch Series Nos. 4 and 5.

At the same time, McDavid explains that the idea also has roots in the belief that "the coolness and uniqueness of using our own barrels just wasn't being highlighted enough." Of course, Ranger Creek's ultimate goal is to one day be able to use in-house barrels exclusively when aging their beer. "We do that as much as possible now," he adds, "but we're still small so we need to supplement our own barrels." For the Texas Bourbon Barrel series debut, that meant adding Four Roses vessels to a mix that included their own Rimfire and .44 Rye barrels.

An Imperial Brown kicked off the series in late January, with the underlying style choice being motivated by a wish to do something other than yet another bourbon barrel stout. "We like to do things that people recognize, but do them a little differently to keep people interested," McDavid says, "so we thought an Imperial brown ale would be delicious, but also intriguing." Based on public reception, consumers would seem to agree.

As for my own impressions, I found the beer to be sweet and warm with a nice bit of nuance to go with what most would consider a slightly bourbon-forward brew. The primary flavors consist of toffee, caramel, roasted malt and dark fruit, but there are secondary notes of oak and a nutty character which develops over time as well. A vanilla essence fills out the finish, with mild carbonation and a soft palate working to enhance the overall drinkability.

From a technical point of view, Ranger Creek's Imperial Brown is strong, but it maintains balance and there's not a feeling that the barrel influence overtakes the beer. Then again, the primary reason to brew an "imperialized" version of a brown ale prior to barrel aging is to ensure just such a thing doesn't happen. As far as execution goes, I think Ranger Creek has done well here in that regard.

Looking ahead, Ranger Creek is testing new recipes before settling on what will be the next Texas Bourbon Barrel release. Whatever that beer turns out to be, the brewery hopes to have it out by mid-to-late summer. Until then, take note that bottles of Imperial Brown are still on sale at some retail locations around North Texas. As always, check with your local bottle for availability.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Meddlesome Moth announces Alpine Beer Co. dinner with founder Pat McIlhenny

Image credits: Alpine Beer Co., Meddlesome Moth

By now you've probably heard that products from the California-based Alpine Beer Company are headed to Texas, the result of an agreement the brewery signed late last year to have their beers packaged by the Green Flash Brewing Company.

Scheduled to arrive early next month, one of your first chances to try Alpine's offerings will come at the Meddlesome Moth during a beer dinner hosted by brewery founder Pat McIlhenny on March 9 at 6 p.m. Only 100 seats will be made available, with the cost set at $75pp, including gratuity. Reserve your spot by purchasing tickets at Eventbrite or by calling the Moth at 214-629-7900.

Meet and Greet

Alpine Ale - Pale Ale

First Course

Hoppy Birthday - Dry-Hopped Pale Ale

Day boat scallop ceviche
with hop sofrito, Peruvian pepper, chive emulsion, pink peppercorn.

Second Course

McIlhenny's Red Ale - Irish Red

Gruyere fondue
with Purple Haze® goat cheese, pickled Medjool date, sourdough grain crackers.

Third Course

Nelson - Golden Rye IPA

Coconut husk-smoked Hawaiian sea bass
with cucumber anmitsu, lime leaf, furikake.

Fourth Course

Duet - West Coast IPA

Wild boar chop and truffle sausage
with forest mushroom, pretzel spoon bread, huckleberry orange demi.

Fifth Course

Captain Stout - American Stout

Mole-spice chocolate cake
with mascarpone mousse, cocoa nib, sizzling rice crisp.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Rabbit Hole aims for cleaner Kölsch with new filter

The most recent batch of Mike Modano's 561 was run through
the brewery's new lenticular filter (Tait Lifto).

New equipment installations aren't something I usually write about, what with a shiny new this or a shiny new that seemingly being delivered to a brewery in North Texas virtually every week. Occasionally, though, something will hop into my inbox that catches my eye, and this morning just such an email arrived from the Rabbit Hole Brewing Company.

Rabbit Hole's new gadget filters beer
during transfer from the fermentation
vessel to the brite tank (Tait Lifto).
As for why this particular piece of equipment sparked my interest, ask yourself if you've ever thought Mike Modano's 561 Kölsch-Style beer was a little more bitter than you'd like. I'll admit it, I have, and it's something I noticed the very first time I tried the beer back on its debut night. Rather than being hop-like, my take on the bitterness was that it was more along the lines of a mild astringency. It wasn't anything off-putting, mind you, and as a matter of fact it's not an uncommon characteristic of an authentic Kölsch. Still, I've always kind of wondered what Rabbit Hole's version would be like if it were just a little bit cleaner.

Enter the brewery's new lenticular filter. Not only does it eliminate more bitter by-products by removing yeast that doesn't drop out during lagering, it also improves product clarity and extends a beer's shelf life by getting rid of residual spoilage bacteria.

According to Tait Lifto, Rabbit Hole's Chief Sales Sensei, the latest batch of 561 was the first to utilize the new device and you can see the results in the image at the top of the page. He says the hope is that lessening the bitterness will make the beer "even more popular with everyone than it already is," and he adds that "even if you've tried Modano's 561 in the past, we encourage you to try it again and note the subtle differences as we've continued to add equipment designed to [continuously] improve our overall quality."

2014 Bourbon Barrel Temptress is true to its name

Image credit: Lakewood Brewing Company

If you live in North Texas, you know there are few locally-made beers that cause as much of a frenzy as The Temptress from the Lakewood Brewing Company. A versatile Imperial milk stout, it has been the subject of numerous adjunct treatments over time, even going on to inspire a line of specialty beers known as the Seduction Series. That bawdy band of brews includes the likes of Raspberry, Mole, French Quarter and Sin Mint Temptress.

However, no version of Lakewood's siren that "pairs well with sin" sparks a fervor like Bourbon Barrel Temptress (BBT). First made available in wide release on draft in December 2012, BBT didn't debut in bottles until a year later. Fast forward to the present, and its one of those beers you've got to get while the gettin' is good, because packaged product generally sells out in a matter of hours.

As for the 2014 vintage of BBT, the product has undergone what some might call a significant change. No longer aged in spent casks from Bulleit Bourbon, as it has been since 2012, this year's edition spent nearly six months in barrels from Woodford Reserve. According to the brewery it was simply a matter of availability, as stock from Bulleit was not as easy to obtain.

Making the move doesn't seem to have affected online ratings or the public's general overall thirst for BBT compared to prior years, but if you ask me the beer does present itself a little differently than it has in the past. At least to my taste, it seems there's a bit more barrel going on in this particular beer.

Interestingly, elements in the aroma come across as being much more subtle, with bourbon and light wood tones overlaying hints of roast, caramel and dark chocolate. It's in the taste, though, that the barrel influence really shows itself, with additional oak and a stronger shot of boozy bourbon. The beer isn't hot, but it's definitely warm, as the flavor foundation mixes with a rush of vanilla and drying tannins to round out the finish.

Now, to be clear, there are no complaints buried in the bottom of all this barrel talk. Straight up, I drank this bourbon like there was no tomorrow. Soft carbonation and a lighter-than-expected body make BBT a remarkably easy drinker. Wait, did I say bourbon? Obviously, I meant beer, but therein lies the point. When it comes to bourbon barrel beers, it's ultimately a question of what you want out of such a thing. For me, I'd like a little more beer - and maybe some more body in this case - to balance out all the rest. At the same time, I know plenty who sing an entirely different tune - anyone up for a chorus of "Roll out the Barrel?" To each his own, of course, and perhaps after a few months in the cellar things will come together and make BBT even better for everyone. All I know is, barrel-forward or not this is a brew that didn't spend a lot of time lingering in my glass, and I imagine that's what ultimately matters most.

*Originally published on

Friday, February 6, 2015

Texas Ale Project to host Grand Opening, April 25

Image credit: Texas Ale Project

Though they've been pouring beer since late November, the Texas Ale Project today announced their official Grand Opening will be held on Saturday, April 25 at the brewery located at 1001 N. Riverfront Boulevard in the Dallas Design District.

This culminating event comes a little more than three years after the original ownership group first made public its intention to open the Reunion Brewing Company in Dallas. They went on to endure changes in partnership, difficulties with their initial site location, and various bureaucratic hurdles before changing the company name to Texas Ale Project (T.A.P.) and finally getting the go ahead to start work on the first Dallas brewery to be built from the ground up since Prohibition.

"We're so excited to celebrate our grand opening with all our friends, neighbors and fans," said T.A.P. owner and operator Brent Thompson. "When we started this brewery, we envisioned it as a place to share stories and great beer with everyone, and we're so stoked to celebrate that reality now. This is only the beginning, though. We've been welcomed by the craft beer community and will only continue to brew the best beers we know how and contribute to the North Texas beer scene."

Regarding the opening day festivities, the afternoon will be filled with "live music, delicious food, good company and plenty of beer," not to mention the multitude of craft "beerds" likely to be on hand for the Texas Big Hair & Mustache Competition at 5 p.m.

Four of the brewery's beers will be served, including Fire Ant Funeral Amber Ale, Naked Truth American Wheat, Somethin' Shady Porter and the newly released 50 FT Jackrabbit IPA - a beer described as being a tribute to American-grown hops. Celebratory tunes will be provided by Madison King, as well as J. Charles & the Trainrobbers, and there will be plenty to eat with fare provided by Ruthie's and the Easy Slider food trucks.

Tickets are available online by way of Eventbrite. The VIP package runs $65, which includes early entry at 2 p.m., priority parking, exclusive restrooms and a commemorative t-shirt. You may also opt for general admission tickets (entry at 3 p.m.), which are $32 in advance or $36 at the door. Note that everyone in attendance will receive coupons for three beers of their choice.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Make hay? Drink Haymaker

Image credit: The Gambrinus Co.

Having grown up in a primarily urban landscape, I'll admit it never occurred to me that the term "haymaker" meant anything other than "a powerful blow," which incidentally is the only definition published by Merriam-Webster in its online dictionary. So, upon opening a sample box containing Shiner's new beer, Haymaker, I naturally thought to myself, "this must be a beer that packs a punch." Come to find out, though, other sources include the (what now seems obvious) alternative definition of "a person who is involved in making hay." That, as it turns out, is the inspiration behind this limited-edition brew...and truth be told, I suppose the hay-like packaging material in the box should have been my first clue.

In any case, Haymaker is the 6th beer in Shiner's Brewer's Pride series, following such entries as Old-Time Alt, Ryes & Shine, Prickly Pear, Czech-Style Pilsner and Kölsch. As you've probably guessed by now, it's a beer designed to be enjoyed after a long day tending the other words, time spent making hay. It's brewed with Cascade hops, but seeing as how we're talking about making actual hay, as opposed to delivering a haymaker, you shouldn't crack open a bottle expecting the beer to be too punchy when it comes to its hop presence. For that matter, it also has a mild-mannered malt profile and an ABV of less than 5%.

Really, what we're talking about here is probably a lawnmower beer...cutting grass...cutting makes sense, but Haymaker has a little more character than beers of that nature. Granted, it's light-bodied, effervescent and undeniably refreshing (all characteristics of a lawnmower beer), but there are faint hints of complexity in flavors of bread yeast, floral hop aromas and a hint of lemon in the finish. You might even convince yourself it has a straw or hay-like note, but considering the name it could just be your mind playing tricks on you. Either way, how 'bout we call it a fieldplower beer instead?

As for whether or not you'll find the beer to your liking, it's billed as an "extra pale ale," but I'm honestly not sure what it is exactly that Haymaker has "more" of. That said, it's a clean and easy to drink brew, with soft flavors and only a hint of bitterness. In fact, it's exactly the kind of beer we've come to expect from Shiner for the last...oh, I don't know...106 years or so. Translation? Let history be your guide.

Haymaker is out now, and is available on draft and in 12-ounce bottles as part of the Family Reunion 6-pack. Find it wherever Shiner beers are sold.

Style: Extra Pale Ale
ABV: 4.5%
IBU: 15

World of Beer targets March opening for new tavern in Ft. Worth

Image Credit: World of Beer
Although the word has been out since early November, when a Facebook page was created for World of Beer - Ft. Worth, today World of Beer Franchising, Inc. (WOB) officially announced it will open its sixth tavern in the State of Texas.

To be located at 3252 W. 7th Street in Fort Worth's Cultural District, the "4,650 square-foot tavern with a 1,000 square-foot outdoor patio will feature the franchise's archetype design, providing guests with a warm and inviting interior complemented with modern, sleek touches." Employing around 75 people, the new spot will follow other North Texas locations in Dallas and Arlington in promising patrons over 500 bottles and 50 rotating taps of the "best in local and international beers."

Philip Taylor, WOB - Ft. Worth general manager, says "Our goal is to provide guests with a one-of-a-kind World of Beer experience they won't find anywhere else. Whether you're a passionate beer lover or simply looking for a friendly place to gather for great casual food or drink, we hope to see you here."

Echoing a part of that last statement, WOB CEO Paul Avery added "At World of beer, we truly believe there is a friend on every barstool. We are pleased to be a growing part of Texas' passionate craft beer community...and we look forward to sharing the craft brews and their stories with our guests who may be inspired to discover something new."

WOB - Ft. Worth is on track for a grand opening sometime in March, with plans to operate from 11 a.m. - 12 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday. The pub will serve lunch and dinner daily, and on Sundays will over a unique BEERunch menu.