Friday, May 29, 2015

Brass Tap begins construction in Allen

Images the property of Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Arriving in Texas by way of Chicago, brothers Sid and Viral Patel first got involved in the local industry after opening Choice Beverage in McKinney during the summer of 2010. Now, nearly five years later, the pair's reputation for service and selection has made their retail location the go-to small business bottle shop for craft beer drinkers in McKinney and the immediately surrounding area.

Looking to build on that success, the brothers joined forces with The Brass Tap in late 2014 for the purpose of opening a franchise of the company in Allen. The Florida-based group currently operates bars in Round Rock and Fort Worth, with others being built in San Antonio and Tyler, and still another rumored to be in the works for Frisco. Partnering with them just felt like the right fit, the brothers say, especially since The Brass Tap has processes in place that make it easier to get started, with training and support programs to help along the way.

As for the Allen location, construction has begun on a 3200 square foot space at 2540 N. Watters Road, a spot situated on the southeast corner of where that street intersects the Sam Rayburn Tollway. Part of the Ridgeview Village retail development, The Brass Tap will take up an endcap of one the brick and stucco buildings that sit in the shadow of the city's Cinemark Theatre.

The Allen pub will be The Brass Tap's second North Texas location.

It's the next logical step for both the Patels and the local market, given that they already have a well-established customer base and they're looking to operate in a part of town that is somewhat under-served when it comes to the craft beer community. The brothers hope to bring this particular section of suburbia a well-rounded overall experience, complete with great food, great beer and a great atmosphere.

Once open, they'll stock upwards of 200 packaged selections (i.e. bottles and cans) and pour beer from 80 taps, with a little less than half of their draft wall being reserved for local brews. Regular pint nights are also in the plans, as are the occasional beer dinner featuring entrées prepared inside the pub's full kitchen. They'll have a full bar as well, but based on the Brass Tap logo alone it's clear the intent is for the new place to primarily focus on craft beer.

Taking into account completion of build-out and the always unpredictable permit process, current timelines suggest that a grand opening will happen sometime in late July. When it does, the brothers promise to have a few surprises in store, as they've already been working to stockpile a few special beers to help celebrate the occasion.

The Brass Tap 
2540 N. Watters Road, Suite 180

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Saint Dymphna is Lakewood's newest Legendary beer

All images the property of Lakewood Brewing Company.

It's been six months since Bokkenrijders rode into town as the fifth beer in the Lakewood Brewing Company's Legendary Series, but the drought is over (irony, given the recent rains locally) as the brewery has announced that the newest entry in that limited edition line will be called Saint Dymphna.

Saint Dymphna pays tribute to the patron saint of Geel, Belgium, the hometown of Lakewood founder Wim Bens. Knowing that, it's no surprise to learn that this Legendary release may be the one that Bens holds closer to his heart than any other.

As the legend goes:

"Saint Dymphna, known as the Lily of Ireland, had kindness and beauty that knew no match. In her youth, fleeing lecherous looks, she escaped to Geel, Belgium, where she devoted her life to helping the mentally ill. Unfortunately, her no-so-stable father tracked her down and insisted she return with him. She refused and was martyred instead, becoming the Belgian city's patron saint."

According to Bens, part of this history played out in what is now the backyard of his grandmother's home in Geel. The chapel of Saint Dymphna stands near an ancient linden tree where Bens played as a child. That nearly 500 year old tree influenced the addition of linden flowers to Saint Dymphna, the beer, which will be a Belgian-style tripel with an ABV of 8.6%. "The linden flowers add a slight tea-like lemony character to the beer which complements the Belgian yeast and Belgian candi sugar we use in the beer. It's strong, yet light and full of conviction, like the fair Saint Dymphna."

The chapel and ancient linden tree that inspired the beer.
"My grandmother 'ons Moeke' lived in Zammel near Geel right behind the St. Dimpnakapel. I spent a lot of time at my grandmother's place growing up and playing around the little chapel," Bens recalled in a recent story in Geel's local newspaper. "We would take daily walks to the big linden tree in front of the chapel and my grandmother would tell me stories about the saint."

As it turns out, the town of Geel puts on an event known as Ommegang (elaborately choreographed procession) honoring Saint Dymphna every five years. This year, it happened in early May, right around the time Lakewood began packaging the beer.

Commenting on how everything came together, Bens said, "Saint Dymphna is a legend I've always had on my mind since the beginning of the Legendary series. The release of this beer in conjunction with the Ommegang celebration is pretty special."

According to a press release, the beer will be rolled out to local bars and restaurants on June 1, with 22-ounce bottles arriving at retail in the days and weeks to follow. Prior to that, Saint Dymphna will be on tap at the brewery during taproom hours beginning on Saturday, May 30.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oak, smoke, Steam and sours: A 2015 Brew Riot rundown

Image credit: Texas Homebrew Society, Dowdy Studios.

After attending Brew Riot for a number of years now, I've come to the conclusion that each year's trip to the annual homebrew competition in Bishop Arts involves three primary objectives:

1) Secure a parking spot.
2) Size up the soon-to-be professionals.
3) Sample a bevy of homebrews.

Then again, this year I strongly considered adding a fourth objective, that being to burn down the sinus assaulting cigar tent. However, beyond the likelihood of my being arrested, I decided the end probably wouldn't justify the means. Think about're not exactly going to rid the atmosphere of cigar smoke by setting fire to stacks of stogies.

In any case, palate numbing issues aside, the 2015 edition of Brew Riot featured the standard array of professional and amateur brewers sharing their wares. Among those hoping to open in the near future, Oak Highlands Brewery was on hand with some familiar favorites (Freaky Deaky, DfDub) as they prepare to make the jump to a full-time operation in the next few weeks. With TABC license in hand, as of yesterday no less, they are working on finishing up their space in North Dallas while also interviewing potential brewers.

Another of those in development, Steam Theory Brewing Company was also a Brew Riot returnee. This brewpub-to-be has a chef (locally-known Michael Weinstein), a brewer (Kirk Roberts, most recently of the now defunct Stumbling Steer in Albuquerque), and a yet-to-be-revealed location in Dallas. It seems they just need a bit more capital, as a sign suggested in saying "Investment Opportunities Available."

On to the beer, perhaps the most important of the primary objectives, I don't know that I noticed any dominant trends this time around. Wild and funky beers, if anything, were more in abundance led by stalwart sour producers Grotto and Mossberg Brewing. I've mentioned both in articles on this site before, and both were out again pouring well-deserved award-winning brews. Grotto served a beer named Frank, while Mossberg poured Purple Drank, and true to form each took top honors in their competition categories. Not only that, Mossberg team member Erin Brewer made her name proud, literally, by being named Best Female Brewer for a smoked wheat and juniper berry farmhouse ale called Fall Saison.

As for personal favorites, beyond loitering perhaps far too long at Oak Highlands and the two booths I just mentioned, what follows are a few beers I particularly enjoyed.

Steam Theory Brown IPA: A tasty brown ale base enhanced with the flavor and aroma of tropical fruit and a veritable pile of pine needles.

Fountain Head Keine Eier: Assuming I got the name right, I'm not sure why this Bavarian-style wheat beer has "no balls" (which is what a certain German brewer tells me "keine eier" means), but I'll always have a soft spot for a well-executed version of the style that got me into craft beer.

Preston Fuller Count Drunkula: Billed as a vanilla bourbon milk stout, this was probably my favorite beer of the day. For lack of a better description, it gave the impression of bourbon-soaked graham crackers dipped in chocolate.

Other notables: River Crew Ricochet EyePA (3rd Place, IPAs), and Dallas Homebrew Collective Blitzkrieg Bock (3rd Place, Lagers).

For a list of category winners, see the post on Brew Riot's Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Deep Ellum's worthy Wealth and Taste

Image credit: Deep Ellum Brewing Company

If you're a craft beer lover living in North Texas, you may remember a time not so long ago when there were only a couple of breweries in the area - neither of which existed in the city of Dallas. To say things have changed in the years since would be an understatement, but the most recent renaissance arguably got its start in November 2011. That's also when the Deep Ellum Brewing Company opened its doors in the Dallas neighborhood of the same name, announcing to the world its intent to achieve "total beer domination."

Fast forward a bit from those first formative months to when it came time for DEBC's first ever barrel-aged release. That happened in July 2012 with a beer called Wealth and Taste. Built on a base that's classified as a Belgian-style golden strong ale, past and present incarnations of the beer have been aged in barrels that have spent up to eight years housing chardonnay in California's Napa Valley.

One interesting thing to note, Wealth and Taste has gone through a couple of iterations since it debuted, not only in terms of the malt and hops used, but also with respect to its added flavors. The original was brewed with grapefruit, rose hips and chamomile, while a later version dropped those first two ingredients in favor of lavender. This year the beer has been streamlined even more, with the only additive being the Muscat grape juice that's been part of Wealth and Taste's make-up since day one.

Whether or not you notice any recipe changes may depend on how recently you've had a past vintage, but whenever that may have been I'm guessing you probably won't miss what's missing, since there is still a lot going on in this beer. It starts with a sugary aroma which features the expected grapes, hints of oak and a yeasty undertone, all of which mingles with a wave of grain and bits of biscuity malt. The use of Nelson Sauvin hops, whose flavor profile is often described as being akin to white wine grapes, no doubt helps to enhance the essence of both the juice adder and residuals contributed by the barrels. Though, while a grape flavor is certainly prevalent, Wealth and Taste doesn't come across as being necessarily wine-like to my taste.

As for how it drinks, Wealth and Taste probably leans toward having more of a medium body, though the carbonation helps to lighten the overall impression. There's a lingering sweetness to the beer throughout, but there's no trace of a drying astringency that's sometimes present in other beers infused with white wine grapes. In terms of strength, there's plenty to go around given the 10.5% ABV, but you'd never know it outside of a very subtle warmth in the aftertaste.

If you've yet try it, bottles of Wealth and Taste are likely long gone, but the occasional keg still pops up from time to time at various locales. Your best bet, at least for now, is probably the Deep Ellum Taproom, where the beer seems to be perpetually on tap. Then again if you do happen to find a bottle, I'd probably go ahead and open it, since the beer has already been aged, as it were, and it's drinking quite well as it stands right now.

*Originally published on

Monday, May 11, 2015

BrainDead brings on the beer

Gritz among three BrainDead brews now on tap in Deep Ellum (Brian Brown).

Without actually intending to, it turns out that I was the first person to order a pint of house-brewed beer at BrainDead. I'm sure you've heard of's this new brewpub thing happening down in Deep Ellum, a place that's been devoid of brewpubs since Copper Tank closed in 2001. I mean, of course you have, it's been the talk of the town since partners Sam Wynne, Jeff Fryman and Drew Huerter first announced their intentions back at the end of 2013.

Now, if we're talking history, other than Copper Tank and the currently operating Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Deep Ellum has been home to two other brewing operations over time. One was a short-lived brewpub by the name of Moon Under Water, which was around for all of two months in late 1996, while another was the Main Street Brewing Company which closed in 1998. Interestingly enough, BrainDead's address at 2625 Main Street lies at roughly the halfway point between where Copper Tank and Main Street Brewing once existed at 2600 and 2656 Main, respectively.

Of course, that was then and this is now, and most local beer geeks would be lying if they said they haven't been anticipating head brewer Huerter's newest creations since BrainDead opened in March. As for what sort of styles he has to offer, the initial focus appears to be on easy-drinking brews of a type you don't necessarily see every day.

The first of BrainDead's opening day trio of beers is Gritz, an unfiltered pre-Prohibition-style cream ale whose description is meant to imply that it's a little bolder than a traditional take on the style. In that respect it surely delivers, as it has the sort of more-forward flavor profile you might expect in a cream ale that's been imperialized. This one stays sessionable, though, with its 4.4% ABV, while its mix of grainy effervescence and a lightly-hopped finish makes it one of the more enjoyable cream ales I've had in quite some time.

As for beer number two, 75 Shilling is a straight ahead Scottish ale with a number designation that puts it between the "heavy" and "export" versions of the style as defined by the BJCP. It's got a full-flavored malt backbone with a doughy element, hints of caramelization and an earthy undertone that hits the mark on all the basic style descriptors. It's an easy drinker as well, having a light-to-medium body and an ABV under 5%.

The last beer on the list is an Export Stout, something that's rarely seen locally whether you be talking a domestic or import. In fact, the only other one I can remember of any consequence is Guinness Foreign Extra, though Rabbit Hole did release one earlier this year with a fruit infusion. Huerter's version was still carbonating over lunch, so I just had a quick taste, but that was enough to get a feel for how its slightly bitter cocoa character will pair well with the Chocolate Stout Popcorn that Chef David Pena was sampling during lunch.

Out of the three, Huerter says the Gritz and the Export Stout will be regular offerings, while 75 Shilling is currently intended to be a one-off. The latter being something we should probably get used to, as that's the beauty of a brewpub embracing a small-batch approach - something Deep Ellum has been missing for a long, long time.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A trip to Tupps: new brewery in McKinney now open

All images property of Brian Brown / Beer in Big D.

With their grand opening on Saturday, Tupps Brewery became the area's twenty-sixth production brewing operation. Led by founders Keith Lewis and Tupper Patnode, along with brewer Chris Lewis (one of Keith's two sons), team Tupps welcomed a steady crowd of North Texans to their facility located adjacent to the historic Cotton Mill in McKinney. Estimates on the brewery's Facebook page put the number of attendees at around 1200, up significantly from pre-event expectations of a few hundred.

This was my second visit to Tupps, coming after a preview excursion back in January when the brewery was in the final stages of construction. Now having had the chance to see the finished space, you certainly get a sense of what those behind the business are all about. For one thing, certain elements leave little doubt that this is a brewery built in Texas. The Lone Star Flag is raised multiple times above the bar top, with an even larger version mounted behind the brewhouse.

The Texas theme extends further to the barley and hop-based offerings, with two everyday beers incorporating the state's name in their branding. Those beers, Texas Shade Wheat and a Texas-style Black Ale, were both on tap opening day, along with Tupps IPA. Others coming soon include Cotton Mill Gold (a golden ale brewed with five hop varieties) and Northbound 75 (a pepper-infused pale ale).

Something else you'll notice is a commitment to the reclamation of various materials for reuse in and around the brewery. While there was evidence of this here and there in January, much of the detail work on art installations and the like was still to be done. Now, you'll find examples of something old being made into something new nearly everywhere you turn. For instance, piping and pitchforks make up brewery signage overlooking the beer garden, which has within its borders a fountain made up of bottles, kegs and carboys. And if you're not sure where to go when driving in for a tour, just look for the rusty old car sitting out front of Tupps' office space. It sports the brewery's insignia and has a timeworn two-wheeler (i.e. a bicycle) resting on its rooftop.

Like others, Tupps has also made efforts to create a family-friendly atmosphere, considering kids could be seen playing games like Giant Jenga and Cornhole. There was even a basketball hoop installed at one end of the main building, making me wonder if shooting a few hoops is yet another option to be explored. A rather docile goat took in the festivities as well (so, I guess the brewery is more than just dog-friendly), apparently unphazed by its surroundings and comfortable with the attention it received.

All in all, the setting makes for a casual and festive environment on the eastern side of McKinney. Seeing how Tupps lies a little over a mile from the city's Historic Downtown square and less than three miles from the neighboring Franconia Brewing Company, you could easily make a day out of visiting all three locales on a Saturday afternoon. Should you be thinking about such a trip, take note that both breweries are open weekly at 11 a.m. Make Franconia your first stop since they close earlier at 1 p.m., then finish the day at Tupps, where they serve their brand of locally-brewed beer up until 5 p.m.

Tupps Brewery
721 Anderson Street