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.

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