Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On the spectacle that was BrainDead's Festicle

Image credit: Brewvolution, LLC.

Anyone who regularly follows craft beer in North Texas knows that over the past few years the local scene has witnessed a long line of firsts. Among them have been a number of first-time festivals, many of which have gone on to become can't-miss yearly gatherings featuring the best in both local and national beer.

Within that category, however, one thing the area hasn't had up to now is a festival designed around a limited bottle release. As an example of such an occurrence, perhaps the most well-known of these has gone on annually for twelve years at Three Floyds Brewing Co. in Munster, Indiana. Known as Dark Lord Day, it's been called the "most iconic single-day release event in the craft beer industry."

This is relevant because the topic of Dark Lord Day arose during conversations on more than one occasion during North Texas' first foray into a similar type event on Saturday. Billed as BrainDead Brewing's first-ever Festicle, the affair was a joint effort between the brewpub and Chad and Nellie Montgomery, otherwise known as the husband-and-wife team behind Big Texas Beer Fest.

The catalyst for the festivities was, of course, the inaugural release of two BrainDead beers in a bottle. Head brewer Andrew Huerter unveiled Hammer of the Gods, an imperial wheat porter aged in whiskey barrels, and Bent de Garde, a bière de garde aged in red wine barrels. These were sold in 750 mL vessels at a cost of $20 per bottle, with allotments based on whether you purchased a VIP or general admission ticket.

As for the celebration itself, Festicle was held in the parking lot adjacent to BrainDead's location in Deep Ellum. Live music filtered through the crowd from a stage set up at the far end of the space, while food was prepared on the opposite side in a contraption of cookery called Jolly. Chef David Pena used the device to smoke a steer leading up to the event, with the eventual offerings consisting of a choice between a beef cheek or brisket plate served with a variety of sauces.

The bulk of the setup, though, was devoted to the main attraction, that being the beer. Attendees sampled brews from a carefully curated list of over 70 beers from more than 40 different breweries. And, at least from my perspective, I'm not sure there was a bad beer in the bunch. In fact, the selection was such that even if you only chose products scoring 99 or better on Ratebeer, you still would have found more than enough to drink in order to fill out the twelve-sample tasting card. In my case, although I bypassed favorites by the name of Bible Belt, The Beast and Backwoods Bastard, I didn't feel like I missed out on anything since every beer I tried rated well above average. Among the highlights were Hops & Grain's Ye Old Street St. Ale (the style of which is embedded in the name) and a light-bodied sour cherry stout from Blue Owl called Professor Black.

But, getting back to something I said up above, one might wonder if North Texas has a big-time beer release day in the making. "We're not there yet, but someday we hope to be," was the sentiment echoed by BrainDead's other two key players, Sam Wynne and Jeff Fryman, but considering it was even discussed means it's something to aspire to. While it's obviously too early in the brewpub's history to be drawing comparisons to Dark Lord Day and the beer it celebrates, just having an event like this in North Texas checks off a box, so to speak, on the list of things the region has never experienced before. In that way, it adds yet another welcome layer to our still-developing scene.

On the question of whether it will become a can't-miss event, one thing to consider is how it compares to other local festivals. While large-scale soirees like Untapped and Big Texas Beer Fest cater to casual craft beer drinkers as well as connoisseurs, Festicle comes across like Brewer's Ball in being more of a beer geek's beer festival. If that and the smaller setting are things that appeal to you, then I'd say the answer to the question is yes. At least for me, the price of food and drink alone was worth the price of admission, and based on that I foresee many more Festicles in my future.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

FireWheel Brewing closes in Rowlett

Image credit: FireWheel Brewning Co.

After more than three years in business, FireWheel Brewing Co. has closed its doors in Rowlett.

The work of owner and brewer, Brad Perkinson, FireWheel opened in the summer of 2012 in a business park located on Lawing Lane. Perkinson ran the brewery as a proverbial one-man band during the company's first two years, not hiring his first employee until April 2014. Not long after that, he took on an equity partner with the intent to transition to a larger facility on Enterprise Drive. The new space, which featured a 30-barrel brewhouse, added cold-storage capacity and a taproom for visitors, debuted the following December.

Entering 2015, Perkinson's long-term plan was to begin packaging FireWheel's products in cans, but financial issues got in the way and eventually forced him to announce the brewery's closure. After a final farewell party, FireWheel ceased operations on November 15, 2015.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Muenster Brewing launches crowdfunding campaign

Image credit: All images the property of Muenster Brewing Co.

It was August of 2014 when Independent Ale Works announced in was closing its doors in Denton County, with one of the two founding partners already eyeing a new beginning to the north. Now, after a little over a year in development, Stefen Windham has advanced to the funding stage of a brewery project to be set in the City of Muenster.

Muenster Brewing Co. will be located at 102 N. Main Street in downtown Muenster. The business will occupy a building originally constructed in 1940, with space available for a 1000 square foot taproom and a 4000 square foot production area. Once the site of an automobile dealership, the structure will be re-purposed to house the first known brewery to exist in Muenster and surrounding Cooke County.

The brewery's address is also just a short distance from Muenster Heritage Park, which is home to the city's annual Germanfest and Oktoberfest celebrations. These events are part of a local culture with German roots that date back to when the city was founded in 1889. It's appropriate, then, that Windham's vision for the brewery is to focus on crafting traditional German styles. That's a departure from the approach taken at Independent Ale Works, but Windham says he has always favored German brews. "There is so much variety with German beer," he explains, "and I've always said that if you can't find a German beer you like, then you must not like beer."

Referencing long-standing German traditions, Windham recognizes that to be able to execute German styles, and execute them well, the company's brewing process will have to be technically exacting. Using the 1000 year-old Weihenstephaner brewery as an example, he notes that "Germans have had a long time to perfect the art of beer." To develop the brewery's own best practices, Muenster Brewing is working with an equipment manufacturer to custom design a setup that Windham says, "will utilize a number of innovations allowing us to brew beer to exacting quality standards. It is highly efficient and will have the ability to outproduce a system three times its size." Upon completion, Windham indicates the brewery will be the only one in the world to utilize the system in a craft brewing environment.

To help with the purchase of the brewhouse, Muenster Brewing has created a GoFundMe campaign to supplement capital being sought from a combination of private, equity and debt financing. A prospectus detailing the brewery's overall plan and philosophical approach can be found at the following link:

The document, which outlines expected expenditures and includes a brief market analysis, may also be accessed directly from the GoFundMe page located at:

Active now, like other crowdfunding initiatives, rewards are offered for different contribution levels. Donation amounts ranging from $5-$6000 will get you anything from a free pint of beer on opening day, to taking part in a brew day while enjoying accommodations at local lodging destinations.

Once the campaign closes, if all else goes according to plan, Windham expects to open for business in late spring or early summer 2016. He intends on operating as a production brewery, as opposed to a brewpub, with a bottling line in the forecast to provide packaged products for distribution. That aspect, according to the prospectus, will be handled by Miller of Denton, with initial deliveries being limited to accounts within a 100 mile radius of the brewery.

* Update: Muenster Brewing has ceased development.*

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Taps & Caps teams with Cobra for coconut collab

Image credits: Cobra Brewing Co., Lone Star Taps & Caps.

Amongst the myriad of new beers coming out for North Texas Beer Week is one you might miss without a trip to the northern side of the Metroplex. On tap now at Lone Star Taps & Caps (T &C), All Eyez on Me is a collaborative effort between the shop and the neighboring Cobra Brewing Co. of Lewisville. It's a Russian imperial stout brewed with toasted coconut, which T&C co-founder Rick Ali says is inspired by the work of a hip-hop legend.

Tupac Shakur released the album All Eyez on Me in 1996, at a time when, Ali proclaims, the artist "was the best at what he did and a game-changer in his profession." The beer, he explains, "is an ode to that and how we (at T&C) are proud to be a part of the Texas craft beer scene after having been at the forefront of the movement for the last 10 years." And, like Tupac, Ali continues, "we are always trying to push beyond the norm." To get a sense of what he means, simply swap the themes of thug life and crime in the album's title track to craft beer and dedication to the industry.

Ali has wanted to collaborate with a brewery for some time. The partnership with Cobra was a no brainer, in his mind, because he believes they tend to brew the types of beers he and many of his customers like to drink. "Dawn of the Dank, Kitchen Sink, Spring Cleaning and Barrel Aged Klurichan are beers that have all that I want," says Ali. "Each is well-balanced with great aroma and a high ABV that is hidden well."

All Eyez on Me (© Brian Brown/Beer In Big D).

Brewing a Russian imperial stout was another easy decision, since it's one of Ali's favorite styles and one he drinks year-round. As for the added ingredient, coconut is a favorite food of his as well, so to him it was a must-have addition. Ali even arose at an early hour to help out on brew day, something that was naturally set to the soundtrack of Tupac's inspirational song.

In terms of tasting notes, my impressions are that the coconut is more of a subtle player in All Eyez on Me, though it does lend a little bit of lingering sweetness to the aftertaste. Otherwise the beer is rich and roasty, with a bitter finish reminiscent of a high-cacao chocolate bar. It's an all-too-easy drinker considering its strength, with a medium body and virtually no hint of the 9.92% ABV.

All Eyez on Me is a good beer, and one that furthers my belief that founders Neil MacCuish and Bill Shaw have found their groove at the brewery in Lewisville. In addition to the heftier beers Ali mentions above, lighter offerings like the hazelnut-infused Donut Dunker have proven to be solid efforts as well. Given that, if it's been a while since you've visited Cobra, it might be worth your time to give them a second look.

As for this batch of All Eyez on Me, enough was made to fill only five half-barrel kegs, so it will only be available for a limited time. Should the beer prove to be popular, Ali hopes he and MacCuish can continue to develop the recipe, perhaps offering different variants with other ingredients in the future.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Best of the fest: My 2015 Dallas Untapped tasting card

Image credits: Untapped Festival, Alaskan Brewing Co., Braindead Brewing,
Lakewood Brewing Co., Oak Highlands Brewery.

Due to other things taking up a lot of my time over the last year or so, this weekend's Untapped Festival at Fair Park in Dallas was a return of sorts for me, since the last Untapped event I attended was the Fort Worth get together in 2014.

While it was great to be back roaming the grounds, I have to say that Untapped has officially become unmanageable. I mean, come on, how am I supposed to drink all the beers when there are over 400 of them to choose from?! Granted, I didn't actually want to drink 400 beers (not really anyway), but there were at least a few dozen on my short list of things to try at the event this past Saturday. This is all in jest, of course, but considering the beer list, its quality of curation and...well...the strength of many of the samples I sipped, all it took was two tasting cards and I was about done. Any more than that and I would've probably been seen wandering around reciting the lyrics to Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home." 

So, what was good? Most everything I tried, really, except maybe a spice bomb or two, and another that was a little too minty fresh. Then again, there was also the beer with a purpose in life that wasn't exactly clear. It wasn't bad, but I don't know if it was an ice cream trying to be a beer, or a beer trying to be an ice cream...or maybe neither? If someone wants to check with Ben or Jerry and get back to me, that'd be great.

In any case, here are a few of my favorites from Saturday's Fair Park adventure. As always, these words are based on first impressions gleaned from a two-ounce sample, so any tasting notes are fairly basic, and it's understood that your thoughts may be completely different than mine. Cheers!

  • Alaskan Smoked Porter (2005, 2010, 2015): A great little in-festival vertical treat, after trying all three vintages I'd say the 2010 was the best. Not surprisingly, the smoked malt was most prevalent in the 2015 release, while being much less present in the bottle from 2005. The early version had some interesting sherry-like notes as well, but for me it was hard to beat the overall balance of the 2010 edition.
  • Braindead 10th Anniversary Brett IIPA: From what I understand, the anniversary reference has to do with when Braindead brew chief Drew Huerter started homebrewing (yes, no, maybe?). As for the beer, this well-balanced brew was a little hoppy, a little funky and a lotta good.
  • Lakewood Wild Manimal: Also using a bit of Brett, Wild Manimal is the brainchild of the "Manimal" himself, brewer Will Paden. It had just the right amount of fruit and funk, and while I'll need a full pour to see for myself, Lakewood founder Wim Bens said he thinks it's one of the brewery's best ever.
  • Oak Highlands Chump Change: While I'm not at liberty to discuss the details of how this beer is made, to me it's a reminder that you don't have to go beyond beer's four basic ingredients to make something interesting and unique. Billed as an imperial black saison, Chump Change seemed to bring together the funk and effervescence of a saison, with the color and dark fruit of a dubbel.

Others I enjoyed: 903 Balcones Barrel Aged Sasquatch, Deep Ellum Barrel Aged Oak Cliff Coffee Ale, Jester King Synthesis Analogous, Karbach Trigavé, Rabbit Hole Mystic Rapture.

Friday, November 6, 2015

On the eve of Untapped, a Q&A with organizer Corey Pond

Image credit: Untapped Festival.

It was the summer of 2012 when North Texas was first introduced to the concept of Untapped, a festival billed as a mash-up of the best in both music and beer. The music was one thing, but for beer lovers the event promised a selection of brews unlike anything that had ever been seen, not only locally, but across the entire state of Texas as well. And, it delivered in that respect many times over.

Now entering its fourth year in Dallas, Untapped has grown from a gathering where 50 breweries doled out samples of around 100 beers, to an event where over 100 breweries will be serving more than 400 beers. Included in that number are 175 beers from 45 Texas breweries, 25 of which make their home in the Metroplex. On top of all that, attendance is expected to be in the vicinity of 10,000 people. Not bad for a festival that didn't even exist as recently as 2011.

As one of the organizers of Untapped, Corey Pond (the beer guy) has been front and center since it was just an idea being talked about over a beer with Spune Productions CEO Matthew Harber (the music guy). Not only that, Pond is also the owner of The Common Table, as well as being a member of the Board of Directors for North Texas Beer Week. So who better to ask about the evolution of Untapped, its legendary beer list (check out the 2015 edition here) and how it helps to foster the growth of craft beer industry in North Texas?

After discussing these very topics with him, which I've summarized below, should someone come up to me in the future and pose the above query, what I'll say is this...if you've got questions related to craft beer, Corey Pond's got answers. And, I'm not talking about the kind of rehearsed remarks some sports star spits out after he's gotten his keister kicked in a tough game. Indeed, what you're about to read isn't just a collection of clichés or an attempt to sugar coat what Pond believes is the truth. Instead, what you'll see are honest, passionate and prideful responses that speak to where North Texas is as a craft beer community, and thoughts on what the region is capable of becoming in the not-so-distant future.


On Untapped's all-important beer list...

Q: Back in 2012, the year Untapped got its start in Dallas, I said something along the lines of that beer list being one of the greatest collections of craft beer ever compiled in the state. By all accounts, the list has only gotten bigger and better since then. How have you managed to continue to one-up yourself in that regard?

CP: I still believe that first comment was true back then, but this year's list makes that one look pedestrian. Over time the reputation for Untapped's beer list has made getting an incredible lineup much easier. The breweries know everybody is going to throw down and they want to make sure the beers they bring stand up to their peers. I do push back every now and then on the breweries and ask for something more, but not very often. It just kind of takes care of itself. I've also gotten to be friends with a lot of these folks and they know I'll drive them crazy if they phone it in.

Q: Does the North Texas market present any unique challenges compared to others in the state when it comes to putting together the list? Is it easier or more difficult considering there are almost always a handful of new breweries that have opened since the last event?

CP: North Texas is actually the best place to put together the beer list, in my opinion. With all due respect to Austin, Houston and San Antonio, we have more breweries here than any other city in Texas and overall the quality of beer in North Texas is better. That's not just my opinion - user ratings on Ratebeer, as well as awards won at GABF and World Beer Cup have all pretty much made that an objective fact. I also know a lot of the owners/staff at the local breweries and talk to them regularly, so I spend 12 months a year encouraging them to make something special for the event. If you look at what Peticolas does at every Untapped festival, that pretty much summarizes it for me. The beer lists in all the markets are outstanding, but you just can't beat the one in Dallas. Plus, Dallas Untapped is the flagship, so the out of town folds typically make sure they bring the heat for this one.

Q: You visited Southern Tier in New York to help brew XNTX 2015, a beer created exclusively for North Texas Beer week that will be available at Untapped. What was that experience like?

CP: It was amazing - it's likely the most beautiful brewery I'll ever see and the people were amazing. But, they actually made us do the brewing work - I had to handle 20+ lb bags of malted barley (and damn near ruined a machine in the process), fill buckets with hops and set my phone to remind me to go back and add the 2nd and 3rd hop additions (at that point I was in the brewpub). I had the opportunity to brew at another large craft brewery several years back, but it was not nearly as hands on as this. I tasted the roasted pecans before they were put in the mash (15 lbs of them if I remember correctly). It was a blast and I learned a lot. I can't wait to taste the beer - it sounds delicious.

Q: Other than XNTX 2015, what other beers are you excited to try this Saturday?

CP: These are the beers I'm hoping to try:

  • 903 Brewers Balcones Barrel Aged Sasquatch and The Sour One.
  • 2005, 2010 and 2015 vintages of Alaskan Smoked Porter.
  • Alpine Nelson (cause it's the #truth).
  • Audacity Red Wine Barrel Aged Sour.
  • Braindead 10th Anniversary Ale.
  • Cobra Barrel Aged Klurichan.
  • Community Rum-Soaked Cinnamon Legion.
  • Dogfish Higher Math.
  • Epic Sour Brainless on Peaches.
  • Hops & Grain beers, since they currently don't distribute to D/FW.
  • Jester King Synthesis Analogous.
  • Lakewood Wild Manimal.
  • Lakewood/Rahr & Sons DFW.
  • Martin House Holidazed and Confused.
  • Ninkasi beers making their Untapped debut.
  • Oak Highlands Chump Change.
  • Panther Island Gourdeous Blonde.
  • Peticolas Black Curtains and Sledge Hammer.

On the move to Fair Park for the 2015 event...

Q: With this year's event comes a change in venue. Gilley's seemed to be a popular choice, but this time around you've moved things to Fair Park. Is that just a function of overall growth and needing more space? 

CP: Gilley's was great but it presented some unique TABC challenges due to property lines and other stuff I'm still not sure I understand. Fair Park is an amazing setting and those guys are PROS at handling events. The growth of the event forced the move as much as anything else, but I doubt we'll ever move it again. 

On coupling with CrowdSource and growing craft beer's audience...

Q: A little over a year ago, CrowdSource purchased a majority interest in Untapped. The catalyst for the move from Untapped's point of view seemed to primarily be to add resources to allow growth the even both in Texas and beyond. As you alluded to in mentioning Austin, Houston and San Antonio, we've seen new events added in other major Texas cities, but how else has the partnership changed things as far as putting on the event?

CP: It gives us the ability to do things we otherwise couldn't. The reputation and influence of The Dallas Morning News (CrowdSource's parent company) opens a lot of doors that otherwise wouldn't be opened. For instance, we're now the first major event to follow the State Fair at Fair Park. If we had gone to them (Fair Park) two years ago, I doubt they'd have jumped through all the hoops to make it happen. There's also some exciting stuff we're working on that'll show up in future years that otherwise wouldn't be possible. The marketing reach doesn't hurt either, and we love being a part of such an influential organization. I'm proud of the partnership every single day.

Q: Picking up on something you just said, CrowdSource and The Dallas Morning News obviously have a wide reach with a variety of consumer types. Would you say it's helped to attract a new audience to the craft beer scene that might not have found its way otherwise?

CP: I do believe they've helped attract some new folks. The coverage they provide in print and online reaches a TON of folks and their voice is obviously very well respected. I would've never thought we'd take on a partner for Untapped, but if you'd have told me the potential partner was The Dallas Morning News, I would've always wanted to be a part of that.

Q: Staying with the idea of the audience Untapped serves (both literally and figuratively), music is obviously a major component of the event. In fact, Untapped is presented as the best of both music and beer, rather than say a music festival that just happens to have great beer (or vice versa). Even so, do think either side benefits more from being brought together? 

CP: This is what makes Untapped special to me and hopefully to fest-goers. We absolutely, positively introduce new people to craft beer. They (the fans that come strictly for the music) actually don't have a choice at Untapped - they have to drink craft beer or not drink anything at all. I've seen so many people post on social media about how Untapped introduced them to the beer scene, and every time I see one it makes me smile. I also love great music and enjoy the idea of introducing beer lovers to great music they hadn't known about previously. It's the combination of the two that makes me (and everybody involved) so passionate about Untapped.

On the state of the local craft beer union...

Q: In your mind, how does Untapped impact the beer scene here in North Texas?

CP: To me, the entire beer scene is symbiotic. Having great breweries makes it easier to have a great festival. Having Big Texas Beer Fest here makes it easier to have Untapped here. Having North Texas Beer Week occur and kick so much ass helps Untapped, helps the breweries, and so on. Untapped brings people to craft beer (just like BTBF, North Texas Beer Week and the local breweries do) which in turn helps BTBF, North Texas Beer Week, the breweries, etc. I don't really know exactly what Untapped does, but I'd like to think it makes a big impact. Ten thousand folds all drinking and talking about beer in one place surely makes some kind of difference.

Q: Finally, if  you were to give a one-paragraph "state of the union" on where North Texas is as far as being considered a craft beer destination, what would you say?

CP: I think we're already a destination. For Untapped, over 10% of our total ticket sales come from more than 45 miles away (so even outside of Fort Worth). This year, we've sold tickets to people from over 30 states. North Texas Beer Week is also making an impact. There are more breweries in North Texas than almost any city in the south (as in south and east of here) aside from places in North Carolina. We have two of the biggest and best beer festivals in the nation, and our beer week is undoubtedly among top in the nation and it's not even three years old. It's been amazing to watch. I believe North Texas can become one of the top beer destinations in the next three-to-four years. The momentum that exists today gives me no reason to believe we won't continue to catch up with, and eventually pass, quite a few of the big beer cities.

Untapped Dallas happens Saturday, November 7 at Fair Park. Get your tickets here.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Rahr & Sons readies 2015 Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer

To be on shelves in time to enjoy with your Thanksgiving dinner, Rahr & Sons is set to deliver the 2015 edition of Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer.

This year, Rahr & Sons has taken its seasonal Winter Warmer and aged it for 12 weeks in bourbon barrels with freshly toasted American oak. The goal being "to create a balanced, yet bold blend of oak, English hops, dark fruit flavor and a touch of vanilla."

Image credit: Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. (click to enlarge)

As it's done every year since Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer first debuted, Rahr & Sons has again refined its brewing and wood-aging techniques to build upon past successes. According to a press release, changes made for 2015 have led to a more flavorful beer with higher alcohol content (10.37 % ABV) compared to prior years.

Rahr & Sons brewing operations manager, Craig Mycoskie, commented on the release by saying, "Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer helped put Rahr & Sons on the map. We strive to make each year's version increasingly better and are very excited for our fellow craft beer lovers to experience our 2015 brew."

Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer will be available on tap and in 22-ounce bottles. Packaged products will feature a new metallic holograph design on the bottle surface, continuing the brewery's tradition of updating the label design each year to make it a unique collector's item.

903 Brewers unleashes Balcones Barrel Aged Sasquatch

Image credit: 903 Brewers
(click to enlarge).
Still riding a high after a 2014 vintage of Sasquatch won a silver medal at this year's Great American Beer Festival, 903 Brewers in Sherman is ready to release a special version of its most popular, and now award-winning beer.

Originally introduced in 2014, Sasquatch is the brewery's imperial chocolate milk stout, and it's a beer that's getting the barrel treatment just in time for North Texas Beer Week. According to co-founder Jeremy Roberts, a recent batch of Sasquatch spent two months in barrels supplied by Balcones Distilling of Waco. It's a significant pairing, says Roberts, because "the distillery's barrels are really hard to get. They are small like us, so we were only able to get a limited amount of barrels for this first run."

As for how the two Texas companies came together, Roberts says it all happened quite naturally. "We are huge fans of Balcones, and we met the distillers one Saturday at the brewery. They loved our Sasquatch, and the conversation quickly turned to how good we all thought it would be in their barrels. The rest, as they say, is history."

Roberts seems happy with the result based on how he describes the finished beer, "On the nose you get whiskey aromas out of the gate, with the first sip adding a lot of vanilla notes from the barrels, backed by a hint of whiskey in the taste. After that, Sasquatch takes over giving you the chocolate and roasted malt flavors we all love from the original beer."

At total of only 22 kegs of were made, meaning Balcones Barrel Aged Sasquatch will be available on a very limited basis. Additional batches are planned, though, with Roberts indicating that he hopes to get the beer into bombers for retail sale sometime in January.

For now, though, 903 fans will have to try and tame the brewery's newest beast during North Texas Beer Week events occurring over the next ten days (though, if you miss it don't despair, Craft & Growler will tap it post-beer week on Wednesday, December 2).

Saturday, November 7
  • Tour & Tasting at 903 Brewers in Sherman, 12 p.m.
  • Untapped Festival at Fair Park in Dallas, 2:30 p.m. (click here to purchase tickets).
Monday, November 9
  • Release Party at Noble Rey Brewing Co. in Dallas, 6 p.m.
  • Special tapping at The Bearded Lady in Fort Worth, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, November 10
  • Pint Night/Meet the Owner at East Side Denton, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, November 11
  • Sasquatch Side by Side (a keg of Sasquatch aged in barrels from Iron Root Republic will also be available) at Jack Mac's Swill & Grill in Dallas, 7 p.m.
Thursday, November 12
  • Trivia night at 903 Brewers in Sherman, 5 p.m.
Saturday, November 14
  • Tour & Tasting at 903 Brewers in Sherman, 12 p.m.
Sunday, November 15
  • Special tapping at The Bearded Monk in Denton, 4 p.m.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Two years of local beer at LUCK

Image credits: LUCK, HopFusion Ale Works,
The Manhattan Project Beer Co., Mossberg Brewing (click to enlarge).

In the two years since it opened in Trinity Groves, the Local Urban Craft Kitchen known as LUCK has made a name for itself in both the culinary and craft beer community. The work of partners Jeff Dietzman, Ned Steel and Daniel Pittman has been praised by media outlets like The Dallas Morning News and D Magazine (food, beer), and just last year LUCK appeared on an episode of Frankenfood on Spike TV.

Yet, speaking as someone who follows the beer scene in North Texas, what stands out to me is the enduring support of the local brewing industry. And, just to be clear, this is something that goes well beyond having a locals-only beer menu that plays no favorites among a crop of over 40 different area brewing operations. Though, that alone qualified the place to earn the honor of having the "Best Local Beer Selection" in 2014, as cited by the Dallas Observer.

Looking past that, LUCK shows its support of the industry in a number of other ways, both inside and outside of the actual restaurant. Some things are more visible, like weekly pint nights spotlighting the latest local releases, and events like LUCKapalooza and last week's anniversary party that bring attention to brewers just getting started in the business (more on that below). Then, there are the things that fly under the radar, like if there's a beer festival happening around town, or if a local brewery is having an anniversary or grand opening, it's a virtual certainty that one or more of the founders will be there. I know, because I can't think of a single event I attended this year where I didn't see one or more of them in attendance.

On that note, Steel says the idea of being present in the local scene is something that's ingrained in the mindset of the three partners. "Honestly, our support at the local festivals, new brewery openings, tours, etc. has been an unspoken commitment. We ALL came to the conclusion separately that it was something that was important to us, that is, to show our support whenever possible. We weren't looking to be recognized for it, but we're appreciative when it gets noticed. More than a few of the local brewery owners/brewers have made a point to tell us, individually, how much it means to them to see us out and about, and for us that's just icing on the cake because we enjoy supporting the local beer scene." That support is something that goes both ways, as a number of those owners/brewers Steel is talking about were on hand as LUCK celebrated its second year.

It's hard to argue, though, that the tap wall is where the support of local breweries is most evident on an everyday basis. The topic even finds its way into Steel's reflections on the past two years. "The old adage of 'time flies when you're having fun' holds true with us," he explains, "because while LUCK has been a lot of work, we're having a blast! The craft beer community welcomed us with open arms and we'd like to think we've reciprocated the gesture with each new brewery that has opened their doors over the past two years. We said from the beginning that if your craft brewery operates in North Texas and you want a tap on our wall, you've got it."

Considering their approach up to now, it seems most appropriate that "local" was chosen as the leading term in LUCK's full name. As for the future, Steel makes it clear that we should expect more of the same in terms of how the restaurant will be run. "Going forward LUCK will continue to support the local beer scene by promoting the 'little guys (and girls)' making quality beer, while at the same time presenting a food menu that is approachable to everyone."

Reading that, I'm reminded that the partners listed "sharing our passion for local food and beer at its best" as a goal on LUCK's website. Maybe it's just me, but I'd say they've done a pretty good job of that so far. As for my own reflections on the first two years at LUCK, I'll just say this in reference to something I wrote right after it first opened...I don't even remember what store-bought pastrami looks like.


More on breweries in development that appeared at the second anniversary celebration:

HopFusion Ale Works

Of the breweries on hand Sunday, HopFusion Ale Works is the only one currently under construction. As of now, founders Matt Hill and Macy Moore are targeting an April opening date for their location at 200 E. Broadway Ave. in Fort Worth. At the event they served what will be both year-round and seasonal selections, including the honey-forward Feisty Blonde and a maple pumpkin creation called Ichabod Canuck. The highlight for me, though, was Zombie Crack, a very well-balanced bourbon oak milk stout brewed with roasted pecans.

Mossberg Brewing

After many years as hobbyists, Mossberg's husband-and-wife team of Jim and Erin Brewer may be ready to take the next step. They are exploring options in Fort Worth, and if things fall into place they plan to be brewing professionally sometime next year with a focus on traditional farmhouse ales and mixed fermentations. While they would have a portfolio of standards, one-off brews and barrel-aged selections would be a part of the mix as well. Favorites of mine they've served at past homebrew events include the beers Balle de Foin (a French saison brewed with spelt) and Purple Drank (a sour brown ale aged on raspberries), with this weekend's pour of Blacker the Berry (blackberry sour) being among their best.

The Manhattan Project Beer Company

Another husband-and-wife team forms part of the group behind The Manhattan Project, with Karl and Misty Sanford being joined by Jeremy Brodt on the venture. To be based in Dallas, beers follow the lead of the company's name in having a nuclear theme. Along those lines, offerings include Bikini Atoll (a cherry gose), Half-Life (a dry-hopped wheat) and Inception (a Belgo-American brown ale). Another brew called Hoppenheimer, a play on then name of nuclear physicist and "father of the atomic bomb" J. Robert Oppenheimer, is said to utilize a strain of Conan yeast, which is well-known for being used to ferment The Alchemist's Heady Topper.