Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meet the family at Bitter Sisters in Addison, March 28

Beer is ready to be served at Bitter Sisters Brewery
in Addison (Brooks Whittington).
It's been nearly a year since owner/brewmaster Matt Ehinger let it be known that he intended to open Bitter Sister Brewery in the City of Addison. Originally planning to open in late summer 2014, it's taken a little longer than expected for the project to come to fruition, but Ehinger says he's just a few finishing touches away from being ready for the brewery's soft opening this weekend.

Commenting on what it took to finally get to this point, Ehinger can't single out anything specific that led to the extended timeline, it was simply a matter of working through the process. While the bulk of the brewing equipment arrived in May of last year, construction didn't begin until September due to delays in obtaining a building permit. Add to that having to work around the holiday season, and it's easy to understand how the finish line became more of a moving target.

Now brewing full-time, Bitter Sisters becomes only the second packaging brewery to exist in Addison, and the city's fifth brewing operation overall. It follows Humperdinks, which no longer brews at the Addison location, and now-closed names from the past like the Addison Brewing Company (1989) , Hoffbrau Steaks and Brewery (1995-2001) and the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery (1995-2001). Based on that, in some ways you might say that Bitter Sisters is looking to succeed where others have failed. The market was different back then, though, as Ehinger himself can attest based on his own experience brewing professionally in Oklahoma during the late 1990s.

As for the here and now, the family-run business named after Ehinger's wife and her two sisters occupies an 8,500 square foot space on the northeast corner of Surveyor Boulevard and Belt Line Road. You'd never guess the size of place based on the view from the parking lot, but there is more than enough room to move around. The production area takes up about 7,000 square feet, giving Ehinger the ability to at least double and perhaps as much as triple his current capacity in the future. At present, he's working off of a thirty-barrel brewing system, with fermenters both inside and out of cold storage in order to implement his plan to brew a lineup evenly split between ales and lagers.

On why he's looking to make lagers a focal point of his portfolio, Ehinger explains that it mostly has to do with the recognition of fact that this is Texas, and Texans have traditionally liked a certain type of beer. Part of it has to do with the climate, of course, and wanting to have a stable of light-bodied brews available for warm weather drinking, but at the same time he's thought about certain cultural aspects as well. In particular, he references early Czech and German settlers who brought their lager beer recipes with them as they immigrated largely to the central portions of the state. In other words, Texans have been drinking lagers for well over a hundred years, and old traditions die hard.

Whichever your prefer, Ehinger plans to have as many as eight beers pouring in the taproom, with selections comprised of year-round staples, quarterly seasonals and brewery exclusives. As of now, he's got three beers ready to go, each of which will be a Bitter Sisters standard going forward. Included among these is Busy Body Blonde Lager (5.9% ABV), a clean and slightly sweet Munich-style Helles, and Cat Fight IPA (6.7% ABV), a classic take on craft beer's most popular style which puts more emphasis on hop flavor and aroma than it does on overall bitterness. Then there's Knock Out Irish Red (8.1% ABV), a beer which is "imperial" in nature, but much different than what you might expect given other imperial reds around town. Brewed with an infusion of chocolate malt, it's a dark and malty beer with a chewy palate and enough underlying warmth that it's probably more of a sipper than is typical for the style.

Looking ahead, Ehinger plans to have a limited barrel program, likely opting for something other than bourbon casks short-term given that they are getting more difficult to obtain. He's leaning towards using rum barrels as of now, perhaps to give a beer like Knock Out a little added punch. As for packaging, a canning line is in the long-term plan, but he sees such an addition to be at least a year down the road. For now, he's focused on establishing his brand and his beers in and around the North Texas craft beer community.

Beginning on Saturday, March 28, the taproom at Bitter Sisters will be open weekly from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., with tours at 1 and 2 p.m. Evening hours on weekdays will be set sometime in the not-too-distant future. In addition, in the coming days you'll also be able to find the brewery's beers at the Addison Flying Saucer, Craft and Growler, Londoner Frisco, Lone Star Taps & Caps, Pie 314 and LUCK.

Bitter Sisters Brewery
15103 Surveyor Boulevard

World of Beer celebrates Grand Opening in Plano, March 30

Image credit: World of Beer

Making it the fourth such franchise in North Texas, and the second to debut this year, World of Beer Plano is set to officially open on Monday, March 30, at their 1941 Preston Road location in the Preston Shepherd Place retail development.

Joining in the Grand Opening celebration will be Real Ale brewmaster Eric Ogershok, as he and the area's newest WOB tap an exclusive firkin of the brewery's Dry-Hopped Porter. Commenting on the planned event, WOB-Plano general manager Barry O'Brien said, "We'd like to thank Real Ale Brewing...for being a part of opening day. This event is just the first of many that we believe will provide our avid beer explorers with something unique they won't find anywhere else. We look forward to getting to know our neighbors in the Plano community and discovering together the nuanced styles and rich stories that make craft beers [in Texas] so special."

In addition to the above, the following activities are also planned for opening week:

Sunday, March 29, 11 a.m.: "Support Local, Drink Local" soft opening featuring live music and pours of Franconia Irish Red to be tapped from one the brewery's wooden kegs by brewmaster Cam Horn. Net proceeds from the evening will benefit the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), a nonprofit group working to fund research and education for this debilitating neuromuscular disorder.

Tuesday, March 31, 5-8 p.m.: Loyalist Night featuring a ribbon cutting ceremony and a special tapping of Deep Ellum Neato Bandito Lager with Citra and Mosaic hops.

Wednesday, April 1, 6-9 p.m.: Brewery Night featuring Lakewood Brewing Company, with glassware while supplies last. Scheduled to be tapped: Hopochondria Session IPA and Bokkenridjers.

WOB-Plano will be open from 11 a.m. - 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit

Friday, March 20, 2015

Oak Highlands planting roots in Northeast Dallas

Image credit: Oak Highlands Brewery

There will come a time later this spring, or early summer, when you'll walk into Oak Highlands Brewery to try one of the area's newest locally-made beers. You'll pass through the main entrance, perhaps pausing for a moment to peruse the merchandise offerings, on your way towards finding a spot to relax in their 1600 square foot taproom. And, at that point, you'll have seen a little more than 10% of the overall space.

Room to expand, say founders Brad Mall and Derrin Williams, was one of the things established brewers told them to plan for as they moved forward with their new venture. That, and to assume everything would cost more and take longer to do than even their worse-case estimates. They've come to know the truth of those last two statements well, but they appear to be taking each day as it comes and are approaching the project as more of a marathon than a sprint. Both are longtime homebrewers, Mall having gotten his start around 1991 and Williams about 10 years ago, so it's not like they just woke up one day and decided to start a brewery. In fact, they've been working towards their goal in earnest for the better part of four years.

Going back to the suggestion of space, judging by their 16,000 foot location at 10484 Brockwood Road in Dallas, that's a piece of advice they've taken to heart and then some. Set in an industrial park in the northeastern part of the city, the building is only two miles from the Lake Highlands neighborhood they both call home, and even less than that from the neighboring Lakewood Brewing Company of Garland. In addition to the taproom, layout plans call for the installation of a three-vessel, thirty-barrel brewhouse and canning line (packaging is intended from the get-go), but even after that gets done they'll still have thousands of square feet to work with. Options abound, but using the added expanse to host private events is one of the more likely possibilities they've considered.

On the topic of the taproom, upwards of 20 taps will be available on any given day once things are up and running full speed. Production brews will naturally make up a part of the lineup, but the owners intend to employ their pilot system to produce small-batch, taproom exclusives in tune with a vision towards making the brewery a destination for local craft beer drinkers. Along those lines, they'll open the taproom a few nights during the week, with extended hours on the weekends and staggered tours throughout the day on Saturdays for those who are interested.

Among the beers they'll serve will be some you may be familiar with, that is if you've attended homebrew competitions like Brew Riot or Deep Ellum's Labor of Love over the past couple of years. Examples include:

  • Freaky Deaky - a Belgian tripel brewed with American hop varieties to give it a refreshing, finishing kick.
  • Allgood - a maltier, fruitier and somewhat more full-bodied take on a German-style kölsch.
  • Derelict - a bright, fresh and grapefruity American IPA.
  • Golden Mustache - a clean and balanced Dortmunder lager.

Each of the above beers has garnered praise from competition judges, though my personal favorite of theirs is one that hasn't. DF-Dub (formerly D-Dub) is a well-executed, stylistic dunkelweizen that the pair says has always been a fan favorite despite never taking home a prize. That beer, like the Dortmunder and an altbier they have in the works, is an example of a seldom-brewed style they hope will provide that little bit of differentiation that's becoming more and more important as the North Texas beer scene continues to grow. That said, they've also got a rather tasty imperial black saison I imagine might help with that as well.

Beyond that, look for Oak Highlands to offer a perpetually rotating "charity" beer on draft at the brewery and at area accounts. The idea here is to change up not only style of the beer on a regular basis, but also the charity to which proceeds will be donated. It's a way to offer a taste of something new on occasion while giving something back to the community they look to be a part of for years to come.

Regarding an opening date, Mall and Williams say it'll happen when it happens, but expectations are for such an event to be at least two-to-three months out. In the meantime, you can stay up-to-date on the brewery's progress by following Oak Highlands on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meddlesome Moth releases menu for Jester King Beer Breakfast, April 4

Image credits: Meddlesome Moth, Jester King Brewery

Continuing their series of anniversary pairdinés, the Meddlesome Moth has made public the menu and beer list for their Jester King Beer Breakfast, an event they say will be just as unorthodox as the brewery itself.

Jester King founder Jeffrey Stuffings will host the get together, which happens on Saturday, April 4 at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $65pp, including gratuity, and can be purchased on Eventbrite or by calling the Moth directly at 214-629-7900.

Meet and Greet

Noble King - hoppy farmhouse ale.

First Course

Snörkel - farmhouse ale brewed with oyster mushrooms and sea salt.

Tamagoyaki, pork belly, bonito, nori and sea bean salad.

Second Course

Omniscience and Proselytism - barrel-aged sour beer refermented with strawberries.

Foie gras, rhubarb croissant perdu, mascarpone pot de crème and plantain crisp.

Third Course

Figlet - farmhouse ale fermented with smoked Texas figs.

House Texas pastrami biscuit, beef jerky marmalade and smoked pecans.

Fourth Course

La Vie en Rose - farmhouse ale refermented with raspberries.

Paula's ricotta blintz with Paris tea jam.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cerveza Sin Frontera coming from Jester King/Crooked Stave/Trois Dames

Image credit: Jester King (click to enlarge).

A beer that's been well over a year in the making, Jester King has just received federal label approval for Cerveza Sin Frontera, a farmhouse ale created in a joint effort with Crooked Stave of Colorado and Brasserie Trois Dames of Switzerland.

Sin Frontera, or "borderless" as the Spanish phrase translates to English, is meant to take consumers on a journey to an abstract land called Swicolotexeradoland, which brings together features of the Texas Hill Country, the Swiss Alps and the Colorado Rockies.

According to a post on the Trois Dames website, the idea for the beer came about after representatives from the three breweries met at the 2013 edition of The Festival in Portland, Maine. The concept being to brew the same recipe, but ferment the beer at each location separately to see how it would develop under the influence of each brewery's unique yeast culture. Fermentation was to occur over the course of 6-to-12 months in 70-80 year-old sherry barrels from the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera.

The Jester King version was brewed in October 2013, with the second batch created at Crooked Stave the following April and the final one in May of 2014 at Trois Dames. As Jester King notes on a blog entry of their own after the first brew day, the collaboration was intended to be a long-term fermentation project, but it would appear the time has come to finally taste the fruits of that labor. At least based an event listing in Portland, Oregon (of all places), it would appear the beer should be out sometime in late April. Of course, this may all depend on the timeliness of TABC approval.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Prickly Pear is Shiner's new summer seasonal

Image credit: The Gambrinus Company

Just for fun, imagine a world where Mother Goose wrote nursery rhymes about beer. Not just any beer mind you, but Shiner Prickly Pear, the brewery's new summer seasonal. Such a sonnet might go something like this:

Peter Piper poured a pint of Prickly Pear.
A pint of Prickly Pear Peter Piper poured.
If Peter Piper poured a pint of Prickly Pear,
Where's the pint of Prickly Pear that Peter Piper poured!?

You know the drill...say it ten times fast.

Getting back to reality, Shiner announced in January that Ruby Redbird would be transitioning to a year-round offering, and they followed that up yesterday with news that Prickly Pear would be taking its place as the brewery's warm weather rotator. As it just so happens, samples arrived at my door on exactly the same day, packaged along with cactus leaves, tweezers, band-aids and gauze. Apparently there's an element of danger in drinking this particular beer.

Prickly Pear, as it turns out, is likely familiar to many, since the returning recipe was originally released as the third beer in Shiner's Brewer's Pride series. And, from what I can tell, things haven't changed much in terms of the ingredient list, as the beer still features prickly pear (and other natural flavors) added to a mash of mixed grains and a combination of Citra and U.S. Goldings hops.

Now, having had a few prickly pear beers in the past, I will say that this incarnation differs quite a bit in terms of its color cast. Others I've had were more distinctive visually, most times with deeper pinkish hues. This one is perhaps best described as having no more than a tinge of pink color, or if we were to borrow a term from the wine world, the look of a rosé amber lager. Appearances aside, though, what really matters is whether the beer is any good.

On that note, the beer's aroma has a fairly strong floral element to go along with the prickly pear and other fruit flavors that are more strawberry-like than citrusy. Things tone down somewhat in the taste, as the tartness fades away almost completely, leaving soft but lingering fruit tones and a finish that is awash in wheat grain. It's a well-carbonated brew, with a light-to-medium body and a slightly more than mild bitterness.

So, would I drink it? long it's ice cold. Just out of the cooler, Prickly Pear is refreshing and unique, but once it starts to warm up the sweetness and intensity of the fruit picks up and it's just a little too much for my particular taste. If you like fruit infusions, though, this might be just the thing for your poolside or patio, especially if you're the type that likes a beer that doesn't really taste like one.

It's probably not a coincidence that the last statement above can also be said for Ruby Redbird, the brewery's now former summer seasonal. It's interesting to note, though, that Ruby Redbird is referred to by Shiner as "The Perfect Summer Beer." As for Prickly's now "The Official Shiner of Summer."

Prickly Pear is available in 6-packs, 12-packs and cases of 12-ounce bottles or cans, as well as in 24-ounce bombers and on tap. Look for it wherever Shiner is sold.

Friday, March 6, 2015

On Rotation set to debut house brews Saturday, March 7

Image credit: On Rotation.

After operating for just over a month with the "soft opening" tag, not to mention having to re-schedule due to a late arriving Old Man Winter, On Rotation is set to celebrate its official Grand Opening on Saturday, March 7, at their taproom and brewery near White Rock Lake.

Doors open at noon, with the big draw expected to be house brews on tap and available to the public for the first time. According to Jacob Sloan, who co-founded the concept with wife Lindsay, a total of four selections will be on the menu:

Cucumber Blonde (4% ABV) - an easy-drinking session beer brewed for optimum refreshment.

Jalapeño Saison (6.1% ABV) - maybe the buzziest of them all, this brew was the talk of local media in the days following Brew Riot last year. Plans are to have "mild" and "spicy" versions of this beer, but Sloan says the first keg out of the brewery comes in about middle of the road.

Raspberry Tart (5% ABV) - another holdover from Brew Riot, the beer formerly known as Project Raspberry actually took home the award for best fruit beer from that annual competition. Built on a wheat-beer base, it's targeted towards those who enjoy sour beers and/or fruit infusions.

Orange Wit (4.8%) - a surprise one-off created just for opening day, Sloan describes this beer as "a citrus-filled witbier that is way better than a mimosa."

Mashing in Cucumber Blonde on the first brew
day, February 8, 2015 (On Rotation).

In addition to the beers above, On Rotation will also tap a few special kegs they've had waiting in the wings. A complete list can be found on Taphunter, but lovers of local brews will want to take note of Martin House Salty Lady, as well as a pair of beers tapped in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day like Peticolas Irish Goodbye and a dry-hopped version of Shannon Irish Red.

As for some of the last minute details they've been working on, Sloan says that in addition to ramping up brewing operations, they've added purse hooks (a feature requested even more than the now-installed TVs), adorned the walls with the work of a local photographer, and spent time acclimating the staff to the overall concept of On Rotation.

That last part has led to what he describes as one of the most exciting times around the bar. Given the limited nature of kegs they acquire and their commitment to constantly rotating stock, rarely will the same beer be tapped right away once a keg blows. This leads to much anticipation among patrons as to what might be destined for the tapwall next, and in that spirit Sloan tells me he's brewing a West Coast IPA and a Cafe au Lait Coffee Milk Stout that will debut in the coming weeks.

Going forward, Sloan says they won't fill growlers with house beers on day one in order to make sure there is enough beer to go around for Saturday attendees. Sunday, though, taps will be open for those wishing to pick up a taste of On Rotation to take home. A similar approach will likely apply to future release days as well. Time is also running out on your chance to get in on an Inner Circle membership (priced at $200), as they plan to cut off sales on March 14. For more information on that, click here to visit the brewery's website.

In the meantime, make plans to head to East Dallas in the coming days to get a taste of the area's newest brewing operation. It's a place the Sloans hope evokes the "tasting room" and "coffee shop" vibe they were aiming for, and that "everyone feels welcome and comfortable when they stop in" to try their beers.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rabbit Hole to release new series of wheat beers

Image credit:
Rabbit Hole
Brewing Company

Continuing to draw inspiration from characters and themes created by author Lewis Carroll, the Rabbit Hole Brewing Company of Justin today announced a new line of seasonal brews created in the spirit of Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Tweedleyum, a strawberry hefeweizen, will be the first in a series of wheat-based beers, all of which will have the tag "Tweedle" as part of the name. The new beer was "designed specifically for spring" and spending time out on the patio. It weighs in with a relatively light ABV of 5.5% and the brewery says it's the kind of beer you'll "look forward to cooling off with...when the Texas heat returns."

The primary ingredient in Tweedleyum is an all-natural strawberry puree from Oregon. According to Chief Sales Sensei, Tait Lifto, "It's a more subtle strawberry flavor, but it's real - it's actual fruit that comes out of the ground, and we want our beers to always have real ingredients. We don't compromise even though it's cheaper to use chemicals and flavorings."

Expected to be released in April, Tweedleyum will be draft only and available through June. Look for it to be on tap at establishments in Austin and North Texas that typically carry Rabbit Hole brews.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

29th Annual Bluebonnet Brew-Off to be held March 20-21

Image credit: Bluebonnet Brew-Off
After having long been established as one of the largest homebrew competitions in the country, the Bluebonnet Brew-Off returns for its twenty-ninth year on March 20-21.

For years, the Bluebonnet has staged their annual get-together at a local hotel. This year, however, the festivities will be held at the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas. According to a press release, the move was made in response to the "recent growth of interest in homebrewing and local craft beer. The change in venue should allow many more visitors to enjoy the event, with greater participation from both local and national craft brewers, [as well as] beer-related vendors."

Activities associated with the Bluebonnet include technical discussions, pub crawls, the ever-popular Commercial Beer Sampling and a keynote address by Justin Crossley of The Brewing Network. This all leads up to the Competition Awards Ceremony, which occurs on Saturday evening. In addition, this year the Rabbit Hole Brewing Company has been named the Official Brewery of the 2015 Bluebonnet Brew-Off. In honor of this recognition, the Justin-based brewery will brew and release a commercial batch of the beer named Best in Show.

Tickets for the Friday night Commercial Beer Sampling and keynote speaker are $25, which includes a commemorative tasting glass and program. A full weekend ticket, which adds access to most things going on Saturday, may be purchased for $35. For more information, or to get your tickets, visit the official website at

Attendees may also book accommodations for a special rate at the nearby Dallas Marriott Las Colinas. Rooms are available for $101/night, but you must make reservations by Wednesday, March 4. Click here for a link to the online reservations page.