Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in review: From revolution to evolution

All logos and graphics are the property of their respective owners.

As 2016 comes to a close, it's more appropriate than ever to look back at how the local craft beer industry is changing in light of certain events that have occurred over the past 12 months. It's been five years since Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas opened, essentially signaling the start of the current craft beer bubble, but today the craft beer revolution in North Texas is experiencing new elements in its evolution.

Up to now, yearly reviews published in this space have focused almost exclusively on legal wranglings and the continuing growth and expansion of the industry. And, while those topics are still very much a part of this year's summary, new wrinkles have crept their way in. More specifically, two local breweries entered into equity transactions with outside entities in 2016. One became the latest to fall under the spell of "big beer," while the other went the way of private investment. Both companies have pledged to stay the same despite the change in ownership, but time will tell what effect these deals have on each brewery and the local industry as a whole.

Regardless of that, 2016 was still a good one for North Texas beer. On top of Deep Ellum becoming the first of the new breed of brewers (i.e. those that have opened since 2011) to celebrate five years in business, events like Big Texas Beer Fest and Untapped Dallas reached significant mile markers as well. Both started their run in 2012, meaning the 2016 events represented the fifth annual installments for the popular beer fest franchises. And, let's not forget, there were even more breweries added to the North Texas roster, not to mention the revival of two local brands.

More on what went down this year in the North Texas beer scene can be found in the snippets below, with links to additional coverage provided should you wish to delve into additional details. That's followed, of course, by the obligatory "Year in Beer" section highlighting some preferred pints from the past year.

The Big Stories
  • MillerCoors makes a move on Revolver: Sooner or later "big beer" was going to make a move on a North Texas brewery. It was inevitable. The only question was which brewery would be the subject of acquisition. Turns out it was Granbury-based Revolver Brewing, who sold a majority interest to MillerCoors in August.
  • Storied Craft Breweries takes stake in Deep Ellum: December brought news of a second equity transaction involving a North Texas brewery as Storied Craft Breweries acquired a 56% stake in Dallas-based Deep Ellum Brewing Co. The deal netted the brewery $10 million in growth capital, but in contrast to the Revolver/Miller accord, the arrangement allows Deep Ellum to remain independent.
  • Grapevine ceases distribution of house brands: Citing financial considerations, Grapevine Craft Brewery announced it would discontinue the distribution of its products in August. House brands are now exclusively served in the brewery's taproom as it continues to provide contract services for other breweries in the area.

Comings and Goings

Last year around this time some were predicting doom and gloom for the North Texas craft beer scene. One person even went so far as to forecast that at least five breweries would close, and at least one of them would be a "big" one. Well, suffice it to say that didn't happen. Not even close. And, while one brewing operation did cease production, I'd venture a guess not many knew the place in question was brewing its own beer. So where do things stand today in terms of total breweries? Currently 53 brewing operations call North Texas home, with 49 unique brands of locally-brewed beer now available in our market.

  • Breweries: Backcountry Brewery, HopFusion Ale Works, Legal Draft Beer Co., Manhattan Project Beer Co., Whistle Post Brewing, Wild Acre Brewing Co.
  • Brewpubs: Bankhead Brewing Co., Harvest Seasonal Kitchen.
  • Brewpubs: Reds Roadhouse (only applies to brewing operations, business itself is still open).
  • Armadillo Ale Works: The company returned after an 18-month absence by signing on with North Texas Brewing Co. for the production of its beers. This just a temporary move while construction is underway on a permanent home in Denton.
  • Uncle Buck's Brewery & Steakhouse: Although the restaurant's license was kept up to date, the tanks in the brewhouse sat idle for nearly two years. Brewing operations resumed in July.

At the same time, I suppose you could claim that 2016 was a down year for brewery openings, considering there were only nine (Armadillo is included since it had to obtain a new license). And, as the following graphic illustrates, that number represents the first decline in area openings since the industry began picking up steam in late 2011.

Source: Individual research.

Still, it's hard to see the drop as a harbinger of doom and gloom, especially in light of the blue bar to the far right. That's not a least 17 brewing operations are expected to join the North Texas ranks in 2017. All 17 have secured locations, but not all of them have made their plans public as of yet. Those that have are denoted below, with the remaining three expected to reveal themselves at a later date.

All logos and graphics are the property of their respective owners.

Future breweries:
  • Good Neighbor Brews (Wylie), Denton County Brewing Co. (Denton), Dirty Job Brewing (Mansfield), Hemisphere Brewing Co. (Rockwall), Hop & Sting Brew Co. (Denton), New Main Brewing Co. (Pantego), Oak Cliff Brewing Co. (Dallas), Pegasus City Brewery (Dallas), Thirsty Bro Brewing Co. (Royse City), Westlake Brewing Co. (Dallas).
Future brewpubs:
  • Cowtown Brewing Co. (Ft. Worth), Flix Brewhouse (Little Elm), Legacy Hall (Plano), The Union Bear (Plano).


Nowadays it seems as though expansion has become a daily topic of discussion with regards to breweries around the Metroplex. For some, it's simply a matter of needing room to grow, something many brewers have been able to obtain by snapping up real estate adjacent to their startup locations. That was the approach taken by Braindead earlier this year when it acquired a neighboring space, but it wasn't an option for Four Corners, a business that's now in the process of shifting operations from Trinity Groves to The Cedars.

For others, though, expansion is taking on other forms, as breweries are looking to broaden their industry presence beyond their original brewery borders. Along those lines, five area breweries either opened or announced plans to establish satellite locations. Those already up and running include Malai Kitchen's new spot in Southlake and Noble Rey's dedicated taproom in the Dallas Farmers Market. As for the future, additional outposts are in the works for Audacity (at Travelstead), Revolver (at Texas Live between Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium) and 903 Brewers (at what will be a multi-use facility in Downtown Sherman).

On a related note, it's also worth pointing out how a few of the area's favorite places to drink beer are expanding as well. Lone Star Taps & Caps added to its growing growler-fill empire this year after unveiling sites in Denton and Ft. Worth, while The Common Table revealed plans for a second location to be built at The Star in Frisco.

Courtroom Confrontations

The craft beer industry continued the fight to overcome outdated and oftentimes arbitrary laws related to the sale and distribution of its products. Initial decisions were handed down in two key matters in 2016, with another still waiting on a response from the judge.

The first of these occurred in August, when a judge sided with brewers in a suit brought against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) on the question of distribution rights. Plaintiffs in the case include Peticolas Brewing of Dallas, Revolver Brewing and Live Oak Brewing of Austin. The three companies asked the court to reverse a law passed in 2013 that prohibited them from seeking compensation for the right to distribute their products. The court's ruling would do just that, provided it isn't overturned based on an appeal filed by the TABC in November.

In another matter, the courts also ruled in favor of Austin-based Cuvee Coffee Bar in its dispute with the TABC over crowlers. Like the case involving distribution rights, though, the fight is far from over as the TABC has filed exceptions to the judge's ruling.

Still pending is a decision related to a brewery's right to sell packaged beer to go. Initiated by Deep Ellum Brewing of Dallas and Grapevine Craft Brewery, a ruling on that topic is expected soon.

We should also mention...
  • Click here to see a rundown of award-winning beers from 2016. Summaries include results from the Great American Beer Festival, U.S. Open Beer Championship, World Beer Cup, Los Angeles International Beer Competition, United States Beer Tasting Championship and Best of Craft Beer Awards.
  • Click here if you'd like to see how things got weird with some North Texas Beerds. You'll get a jump on 2017, while also supporting a great cause. It's all thanks to Dirtbag Charities and a handful of local bare-chested beerdos.

The Year in Beer

Here once again is my annual summary of notable beers I encountered over the course of the year, all of which are presented in mock categories to try and give the whole thing a little more life than the standard top 10 list. As always, standard disclaimers apply...local blog/local slant...beers have to have debuted in the local market during's impossible to try ever beer that gets released...and my tastes may differ significantly from yours.

Notables not noted in categories below: 3 Nations Bull's English Brown with Cinnamon and Coffee, Cobra Ho-Lee-Chit, Epic Big Bad Baptista, Noble Rey Boss Bitch, On Rotation Darkwheat Duck, Peticolas Pick Hammer, Shannon Chocolate Hazelnut Stout, Tupps Full Grown Man.

The 'this doesn't taste like a' beer: Armadillo Ale Works Dapper Apple

I'm not sure if I'd actually drink any beer for breakfast, but considering Dapper Apple drinks like a bowl of apple cinnamon cheerios, if any beer were to change my mind, it would be this one.

A great beer for Ballin': Green Flash Lustrous Frumento

Far and Away the best beer I had at this year's North Texas Beer Week Brewer's Ball, Lustrous Frumento was a "micro-release" put out by Green Flash as part of its Cellar 3 Brewmaster's Reserve Series. Limited to only 600 bottles, the Ball was one of the few places this beer was available here in the Metroplex. Either way, it was big and a little boozy, with notes of bittersweet chocolate, dark fruit and a rich, earthy coffee character.

Best Beer Week beer: On Rotation Lingonberry Sahti

Speaking of Beer Week, On Rotation rolled out what ended up being my favorite beer released during that 10-day celebration. Kinda tart and kinda twiggy (thanks to actual branches being involved in the brewing process), this bright, fresh and lightly-bodied beer was a fantastic take on an ancient Finnish style.

One beer set to debut next year: Oak Cliff Grapefruit Gose

With so many events focusing on homebrewers and/or breweries of the future, it seems appropriate to single out a beer that could one day become a North Texas staple. I'd put Oak Cliff's Grapefruit Gose in that category after sampling it at LUCK's third anniversary party. Brewed with sea salt, ground coriander, Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit and a few complimentary West Coast hop varieties, it's a beer that sets up to be a great warm weather refresher.

Favorite not barrel-aged, not imperial, not sour, not brewed with unicorn tears beer: Franconia English Stout

The first beer in its 2016 World Tour Series, Franconia's English Stout was roasty with a light body and smooth finish. The flavor profile was tempered compared the American approach to stouts, which is spot on with what's expected in an English interpretation of the style.

Also notable: Rabbit Hole Ryeteous Knight, Community Texas Helles, Legal Draft Accused Amber Lager.

A beer you can't buy here: Olde Hickory The Event Horizon

Should you ever find yourself in Hickory, NC, look up Olde Hickory Brewery. The company won two medals at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (which is where I tried this beer), including a silver for this imperial stout in the Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout category.

Roll out the barrels: Martin House Acheron

One of those 100% barrel-aged beers everyone seems to be clamoring for these days, I don't know that I can improve upon the commercial description, which characterizes Acheron as being bold, burly, boozy and barbarous.

Also notable: Avery Xolotl, Bitter Sisters Whiskey Barrel-Aged Knock Out Irish Red, The Bruery Mash & Vanilla, Deep Ellum Cabernet Barrel-Aged Four Swords, Lakewood Thread Spinner, Four Corners/Grapevine Vin Dicel, Oak Highlands Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chump Change.

Quite the satisfying sour: Collective Brewing Project Wood Folk

Inoculated with a blend of more than 10 different strains of yeast and bacteria, Wood Folk is the very definition of a mixed culture beer. That translates to a tart and funky brew with a fair amount of fruit complexity, for those following along at home.

Also notable: Martin House Sea Witch, On Rotation Bit by Bit Batch 7: Dallas Lambic.

North Texas beer of the year: Braindead Galactic Federation of Might

It seems cliché to pick an IPA as my 2016 North Texas Beer of the Year, but guess what....the runner up was an IPA too (see below). Great name...great beer...make more...'nuff said.

Runner up: Grapevine Brewers' Reserve Double India Pale Ale

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rahr & Sons launching Iron Thistle, Iron Joe in cans

Images courtesy of Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.

Representing the latest in a series of moves aimed at offering a majority of its beers in cans, Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. will package and release Iron Thistle and Iron Joe in that format early next year.

Iron Thistle, the brewery's strong Scotch ale, will be the first to emerge in January, meaning it will be on stores shelves earlier than in past years. It will be followed in February by Iron Joe, a take on Iron Thistle brewed with Noir cold-brewed coffee from Fort Worth-based Avoca Coffee Roasters.

Craig Mycoskie, vice president of operations for Rahr & Sons, has seen the popularity of cans grow over the course of his career. It all started back in Colorado for Mycoskie, where he once worked with Marty Jones, a co-founder of Oskar Blues who helped spearhead the canned craft beer movement.

"Canned craft beer has evolved so much in the last 10 years, becoming the future of the industry," said Mycoskie. "I am proud to be part of a team that is committed to making the switch to cans and educating consumers along the way about why cans are superior to bottles."

Look for Rahr & Sons to release additional beers in cans during 2017.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Shiner Cold-Brew Coffee Ale amounts to more than a hill of beans

Cold-Brew Coffee Ale is good to the last drop (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

For this, the latest edition of what the little brewery sent me in a little white box, Shiner packed up a bottle of its latest Birthday Beer (number 108 for those keeping track) and a bottle of Chameleon Cold-Brew Organic Black Coffee. Wrapped in a burlap sack, the two brews arrived nestled in a pile of Chameleon coffee beans, the key ingredient in the brewery's new Cold-Brew Coffee Ale.

The beer, of course, is a collaborative effort born out of the idea that coffee and beer have known to play well together. It's a product that couples the Spoetzl Brewery with Chameleon Cold-Brew, an Austin-based company credited with being the country's original bottler of cold-brew coffee.

In this case, the coffee consists of 100% organic, Fair Trade beans. And, it is said, that coffee crafted with the cold-brew process is especially suited for making a coffee ale. That's because the method produces deep coffee flavors without the bitter and astringent qualities sometimes found in a hot cup of joe. A perfect fit, it seems, for a beer coming from a brewery known for its rather mild, more drinkable dossier.

So, how did it turn out?

Well, the brewery describes Cold-Brew Coffee Ale as "malty, with a slightly sweet coffee aroma and a silky, smooth taste." That's pretty close to my impression of the beer as well, though I'd probably expound a bit on the roasty element. The roast isn't intense, mind you, but it has some depth and it meshes well with the grain bill, which results in a consistent, balanced mix of coffee and roasted malt that sustains from start to finish.

As for how it drinks, give credit where credit is due, since Cold-Brew Coffee Ale is nothing if not smooth, with no perceptible bitterness or astringency in the aftertaste.

The real question, though, is whether or not the beer does that one coffee company say it...good to the last drop? Based that whole start to finish thing I said before, I'd have to say yes. Cold-Brew Coffee Ale is a flavorful, easy-drinking beer that's defined by its primary ingredient. As long you don't mind that the beer wasn't sourced from a barrel and the beans weren't shot out from a civet (i.e. it's just a good, basic coffee ale), then I think it's certainly worth trying.

Look for Cold-Brew Coffee Ale on tap, in 24-ounce bombers and in 12-ounce bottles and cans.

Cold-Brew Coffee Ale
Style: Coffee Ale
Malt: Roasted specialty malt
Hops: Mt. Hood
Other: Arabica coffee, cold-brew coffee.
ABV: 5.0%

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tupps bringing back For Ella, releasing re-formulated Full Grown Man

Image courtesy of Tupps Brewery.

Two familiar names to fans of Tupps Brewery are returning to the McKinney brewery's lineup, with the pending release of its double IPA, For Ella, and imperial stout, Full Grown Man.

For Ella (8.9% ABV, 85 IBU) first appeared on the scene this past spring, quickly becoming the fastest-selling beer Tupps has produced to date. Consistent access to hops kept For Ella on the sidelines for a while, but with a new hop contract in the works, the brewery hopes to keep the beer in the mix more regularly.

"Our double IPA is one of those special beers that we are really proud of," says Chase Lewis, director of sales at Tupps. "We found a hop profile we all loved and ran with it. So much so, we questioned whether we had dry-hopped the beer too much. There is so much juicy stone fruit flavor and aroma in For Ella, but it drinks remarkably smooth considering how big it is."

As for Full Grown Man (11.2% ABV), an edition appearing over the summer was brewed with molasses and English ale yeast prior to being aged on cocoa nibs. The focus at the time was to create a medium-bodied brew featuring an array of fruity esters and a dry, chocolate finish. According to head brewer Chris Lewis, though, the new version is an attempt to mix things up and go bigger, with the result promising to be ever darker and more complex than the original.

Naturally, Full Grown Man is also the antithesis of Ella, as Chase points out when comparing the two beers.

"Ella is all about the hops and Full Grown Man is all about the grain," he says. "Full Grown Man is a beefy, full-flavored stout that will really excite those big stout drinkers. It throws off notes of dark cherry, rich caramel and hints of toasted bread. It's also a beer that will age well, as the dark roasted malt flavors will really develop over time."

Both beers will debut at the brewery's taproom on December 9 (click here for details). After that, look for them to be available on tap at select locations around Dallas-Fort Worth beginning the week of December 12. Further out, cans of Full Grown Man will begin arriving at retail the week of December 19, with plans for a packaged version of For Ella to follow later in 2017.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

HopFusion now flowing in Fort Worth

Flights at HopFusion are $8, with servings consisting of four 4-oz pours (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Completing the final leg of a journey that began in late 2014, this weekend HopFusion Ale Works hosted the grand opening of the taproom at its brewery in Fort Worth. Located at 200 E. Broadway Avenue, the venture is situated in the city's Near Southside district. It's an area of town that has become a sort of brewing epicenter, considering it's also occupied by the likes of Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Chimera Brewing Co., and The Collective Brewing Project.

HopFusion beers have been on the market since June, but founders Matt Hill and Macy Moore had to overcome a series of hurdles before opening the brewery's doors to thirsty North Texans. With that milestone now achieved, HopFusion will be open for business Thursday-Saturday, with the eventual goal of being open six days a week.

So, what can you expect if you decide to make the trip? Well, to begin with, the building is hard to miss should you find yourself wandering the streets without a map. With a predominantly white exterior and contrasting black trim, HopFusion's home stands out like a craft beer beacon compared to surrounding structures in that part of the city. Inside, though, the space takes on a different sort of glow with a warm, sort of wood grain and graffiti motif enveloping imbibers hanging out in the taproom.

Left: The taproom at HopFusion is equipped to serve as many as 20 different beers (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Right: A bandstand occupies one end of HopFusion's public area, with sliding doors
off to the side able to be raised for a more open feel (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Speaking of which, indoors is probably where you'll want to be to get the best view of a wall-size widescreen TV off to one side of the space, but musical morsels emerging from the bandstand are easily within earshot of patrons seated inside or out. Either way, there's roughly the same amount of seating whether you prefer the inner ambiance of the bar and brewhouse or the open-air feel to be had out on the deck.

As for what the brewery will have to offer, a total of seven beers were on tap during opening weekend, with the list including both commercial releases and a handful of taproom exclusives. HopFusion's bar has space for a total of twenty beers, though, so it's assumed that more selections will be added over time.

Regarding the types of beers HopFusion is making, with the exception of a saison, the brewery's current lineup consists of mostly modern takes on American styles. Everyday beers, dubbed the Signature Series, include the names Feisty Blonde, Fur Slipper, Hairpin and Steampipe. Thoughts on those are provided below (based on samples had at a launch event during North Texas Beer Week at LUCK), as are notes on last weekend's taproom-only offerings.


Feisty Blonde (honey vanilla blonde ale): If I've ever had a more honey-forward beer, I don't remember it. In fact, many "honey" beers don't smell or taste like honey at all, since honey characteristics tend to ferment out as yeast consumes the liquid's fermentable sugars. In this case, though, orange blossom honey leads in a beer that also features background notes of vanilla, brown sugar and spice.

Hairpin (rye pale ale): Dry, flavorful pale ale with a noticeable rye component and a moderate finishing bitterness.

Steampipe (black rye IPA): While I can't completely discount the influence of drinking Hairpin right before this one, my initial reaction to Steampipe was that I got more of the roasty, dark malt flavor than I did the rye. It's there, just seemingly more subtle, adding a hint of complexity to what is otherwise a well-crafted black IPA.

Fur Slipper (imperial milk stout): Smooth, easy drinking milk stout that belies its imperial moniker, with toffee and hazelnut flavors complimenting the beer's dark chocolate underbelly.

Les Fauves (saison): The name refers to a group of "wild beasts" composed of 20th century French painters known for their bold use of color. It fits, of course, due to HopFusion's artistic influences and the fact that the saison style has origins in Wallonia, a French-speaking region of Belgium. The interpretation here is brewed with ginger and hibiscus flowers, which results in a funky and floral farmhouse ale boasting a bit more body than a typical saison.

Ahuevo (double IPA): I'd probably want to drink this one again on a fresh palate to flesh out the hop flavors, but a first impression reveals a strongly-hopped, resinous DIPA balanced by an ample malt backbone.

Zombie Crack (imperial milk stout): A version of Fur Slipper aged on charred oak with roasted pecans, the nuts are front and center in terms of the flavor profile. They also likely play a role, along with the wood, in giving the beer a touch of tannic dryness.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Winter is coming: Rahr & Sons Angry Santa joins BBAWW in bottles

Images courtesy of Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.

Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth has announced it will release two seasonal specialty beers this month, both of which are based off the brewery's popular Winter Warmer recipe.

The first of these is Bourbon Barrel-Aged Winter Warmer, a beer that has become a North Texas tradition since it kicked off the brewery's "To Thee" series in 2010. As has been the case in prior years, the beer will once again feature updated label artwork, with the 2016 edition sporting a red, gold and metallic silver design that incorporates a static hologram.

As for the other beer, Angry Santa will be packaged in bottles for the first time after appearing as a limited draft-only product last year. Crafted with mulling spices, vanilla beans and honey to create a brew reminiscent of gingerbread cookies, it's a beer that Craig Mycoskie, vice president of brewing operations, based on baking recipes.

"The gingerbread baking philosophy gives Angry Santa a sweeter taste than Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer, though both are equally delicious," says Mycoskie. "We use ingredients in both beers that are typically associated with the holidays and nicely compliment the notes found in our Winter Warmer English dark ale."

According to a press release, each beer will be the featured pour at an upcoming tour at the brewery, with Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer being poured Wednesday, November 23, and Angry Santa scheduled to be served on Wednesday, December 21.

The two beers will also be available on tap and in 22-ounce bombers at establishments around the Metroplex.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Armadillo re-ups originals for NTX Beer Week

Images courtesy of Armadillo Ale Works.

Since Armadillo Ale Works re-appeared on the North Texas Beer Scene in August, hardly a day has gone by without a question as to when the Denton-based brewing company would be bringing back some of its original brews.

"Soon" is what founders Yianni Arestis and Bobby Mullins would say when asked about the status of Brunch Money, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale and the award-winning Quakertown Stout (gold medal, 2014 Great American Beer Festival). The pair chose to kick-start Armadillo's comeback with new recipes like Honey Please, a honey-forward blond ale brewed with mesquite beans, and Dapper Apple, a beer you might say drinks like a bowl of apple cinnamon Cheerios. But now the time has come for the return of the brewery's first three recipes.

"People are really digging both of our new beers, but of course they keep asking us when their old favorites are coming back," says Arestis, "so we thought North Texas Beer Week was the perfect time for a limited draft-only release."

Some will no doubt wonder about the "limited release," tag, but that simply has to do with the fact that Armadillo is currently brewing its products on a part-time basis at North Texas Brewing Co. in Grapevine. Once the brewery's permanent home in Denton is up and running, though, fans can expect these beers to be back in the fold on a more regular basis.

"Construction at the brewery is in full swing and we are aiming to open early next year," explains Arestis. "When that occurs, we plan on bringing them all back in various capacities, but we really wanted to make this happen now for everyone who misses the old beers like we do."

As for where and when you'll be able to enjoy a pint of an Armadillo original, a schedule of special tappings is provided below. However, take note that additional events are still being added, so be sure to follow the brewery's social media channels for the most up-to-date details.

Friday, November 11
  • Oak St. Drafthouse, Denton - 6-10 p.m. - Brunch Money Release Party, with glassware while supplies last*. Dapper Apple, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Honey Please and Quakertown Stout will also be available.
Saturday, November 12
  • Untapped Dallas, Fair Park - 2:30 p.m. - 12 a.m. - Sampling Brunch Money, Dapper Apple, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Honey Please and Quakertown Stout.
  • Thirsty Growler, The Colony - 2-10 p.m. - Snapchat Takeover (24 hour session) featuring Brunch Money, Dapper Apple, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Honey Please and Quakertown Stout.
Monday, November 14
  • Midway Craft House, Denton - 8-11 p.m. - Pint Night/Tap Takeover featuring Brunch Money, Dapper Apple, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Honey Please and Quakertown Stout.
Tuesday, November 15
  • East Side, Denton - 1-4 p.m. - USBG Denton (members only) Presents Armadillo Ale Works featuring Brunch Money, Dapper Apple, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Honey Please and Quakertown Stout.
  • East Side, Denton - 6-9 p.m. - Tap Takeover (public event) featuring Brunch Money, Dapper Apple, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Honey Please and Quakertown Stout.
Wednesday, November 16
  • Taps & Caps, Denton - 7 p.m. - Hip Hop and Brews featuring Brunch Money, Dapper Apple, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Honey Please and Quakertown Stout.
Thursday, November 17
  • Drunken Donkey, Denton 7 p.m. - Tap Takeover featuring Brunch Money, Dapper Apple, Honey Please and Quakertown Stout.
Friday, November 18
  • Omni Hotel, Dallas - 7-10 p.m. - North Texas Beer Week Brewer's Ball featuring samples of Brunch Money and Honey Please.
Saturday, November 19
  • The Bearded Monk, Denton - 8 p.m. - A Night of Armadillos, with glassware while supplies last*. Brunch Money, Dapper Apple, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Honey Please and Quakertown Stout will be on tap.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Beer list and brewery reps revealed for 2016 Brewer's Ball

Image courtesy of CrowdSource.

According to the latest numbers, there are nearly 300 events at over 100 venues on the bill for North Texas Beer Week. Yet, based on past experience, the most unique and intimate of them all will happen on November 18 at the Omni Hotel in Dallas.

Back for its third annual edition, the 2016 Brewer's Ball will bring together founders, owners and brewmasters from 45 breweries, giving you a chance to rub elbows with the men and women behind some of the most popular local and national brands available in North Texas.

While doing so, you'll be able to choose from a selection of 90 beers, conveniently listed below for your viewing pleasure, 27 of which are of the barrel-aged variety. And, if you want to talk about the "strength" of the beer list, over a quarter of the selections have an ABV of over 10% (so, naturally you're advised to plan ahead and drink responsibly).

Tickets for the 2016 Brewer's Ball are $125 (click here to purchase), with the total number available capped at 500 attendees. That price includes unlimited beer samples (i.e. no festival tasting cards), as well as noshes for nibbling provided from a dozen of the area's top beer-centric restaurants.

Also of note, this year's festivities include a free pre-party and live broadcast on SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket. Taking place on the lawn of the Omni Hotel, the gathering will feature a special toast by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

All in all, it's an event unlike any other and one you simply don't want to miss (click here to see pictures from last year's event). Now, about that beer...

3 Nations Brewing Co. - Gavin Secchi, Founder

  • Texas Xmas Ale – Imperial Stout – 8.3%
  • Double Dry-hopped GPA – Kölsch – 5.2%

903 Brewers - Natalie Roberts, Co-founder and Jeremy Roberts, Co-founder/Head Brewer
  • Balcones Barrel-Aged Sasquatch (True Blue batch #1) – Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout – 10.3%
  • Whiskey Oaked Coffee Pecan Porter – 8.5%

AleSmith Brewing Co. - Peter Zien, CEO/Owner
  • Vietnamese Speedway Stout - Imperial Stout – 12%
  • AleSmith IPA – India Pale Ale – 7.25%

Armadillo Ale Works - Yianni Arestis, Co-founder/CEO and Bobby Mullins, Co-founder/Head Brewer
  • Honey Please – Blonde Ale – 5.3%
  • Brunch Money – Spice/Herb – 10%

Audacity Brew House - Scott Lindsey, Founder/Owner and Doug Smith, Founder/Brewmaster
  • Boss Raptor – India Pale Ale – 6.5%
  • Lil' D – Tequila Barrel-Aged IPA

Austin Eastciders - Attendees TBD
  • Texas Honey – Cider – 5.2%
  • Tequila Barrel-Aged Cider – Barrel-Aged Cider – 4.9%

Backcountry Brewery - Charlie Eazor, Co-founder
  • Bourbon Barrel-Aged Barley Wine – Barrel-Aged Barley Wine – 10.5%
  • Artisan Series Quadrupel – Belgian Quadrupel – 11.2%

Ballast Point Brewing Co. - Colby Chandler, VP of Specialty Brewing
  • Barrel-Aged Victory at Sea – Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter – 10%
  • Sour Wench – Berliner Weisse – 5.4%

Boston Beer Co. - Attendees TBD
  • Yuzu Reserve – Fruit Beer – 7.7%
  • Rebel Juiced – India Pale Ale – 6.2%

BrainDead Brewing - Sam Wynne & Jeff Fryman, Co-founders and Andrew Huerter, Head Brewer
  • Blood Orange Rhymes With Tangerine – India Pale Ale – 7.5%
  • 2015 Bent de Garde – Barrel-Aged Bière de Garde – 8.7%

The Collective Brewing Project - Ryan Deyo, Co-founder/Brewmaster and Mike Goldfuss, Co-founder
  • Bourbon Barrel American Sour Red – Barrel-Aged Sour Ale – 6.5%
  • Dream Folk – Wild Ale – 7.6%

Community Beer Co - Kevin Carr, Founder and Jamie Fulton, Head Brewer
  • Texas Helles – Dortmunder – 5%
  • Macallan Barrel-Aged Legion – Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout – 11.6%

COOP Ale Works - Blake Jarolim, Head Brewer
  • F5 IPA – India Pale Ale – 6.8%
  • Barrel-Aged DNR – Barrel-Aged Belgian Dark Ale – 10%

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. - John Reardon, Founder and Barrett Tillman, Barrel Master
  • Barrel-Aged Four Swords – Barrel-Aged Quadrupel – 10.5%
  • The Fascinating Bellman – Barrel-Aged Imperial Brown Ale – 7.7%

Epic Brewing Co. - Dave Cole, Founder and Kevin Cromptom, Brewmaster
  • Sour Brainless on Peaches – Sour Ale – 7.3%
  • Big Bad Baptist – Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout – 12.7%

Founders Brewing Co. - Dave Engbers, Co-founder
  • PC Pils – Pilsener – 5.5%
  • Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) – Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout – 11.2%

Four Corners Brewing Co. - George Esquivel, Co-founder
  • Celebracion – Belgian Strong Ale – 8%
  • NTXBW Cascadian Seasonale

Franconia Brewing Co. - Dennis Wehrmann, Founder/Owner/Brewmaster
  • Fall'n Bock – Bock – 6%
  • Champagne Ale – American Strong Ale – 8.5%

Great Divide Brewing Co. - Ro Guenzel, Brewmaster
  • Oak Aged Yeti – Imperial Stout – 9.5%
  • Colette – Saison – 7.3%

Green Flash Brewing Co. - Mike Hinkley, Founder/Owner
  • Lustrous Frumento w/ coffee – American Strong Ale – 13.5%
  • Sea to Sea Lager – Zwickel Lager – 4%

Harpoon Brewery - Kevin Thompson, Head Brewer
  • Interrobang – Imperial Stout – 18%
  • UFO White – Witbier – 4.8%

Karbach Brewing Co. - Eric Warner, Co-founder/Brewmaster and Brad Batson, Co-founder
  • Bourbon Barrel Hellfighter – Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter – 10.8%
  • Roll in the Hay – Barrel-Aged Saison – 7.5%

Lakewood Brewing Co. - Wim Bens, Founder
  • Wild Manimal – Wild Ale – 8.9%
  • Thread Spinner – Barrel-Aged Barley Wine – 13.5%

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. - Will Brown, Head Brewer
  • 10th Anniversary – American Strong Ale – 10%
  • Southern Pecan – Brown Ale – 4.5%

Martin House Brewing Co. - Cody Martin, Founder/Head Brewer
  • Queen of the Mist (Black Currant) – Barrel-Aged Gose – 6.5%
  • Cheer Wine – Wheat Wine – 11%

New Holland Brewing Co. - Brett Vanderkamp, Co-founder and Fred Bueltmann, VP of Sales/The Beervangelist
  • Mad Hatter – India Pale Ale – 7%
  • Dragon’s Milk – Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout – 11%

Noble Rey Brewing Co. - Chris Rigoulot, Founder and Tommy Miller, Head Brewer
  • Whiskey Oaked Vertigo – Double IPA – 9.5%
  • Barampus w/ cinnamon sticks, coffee, & rum – Brown Ale – 6.1%

Oak Highlands Brewery - Brad Mall, Co-founder and Derrin Williams, Co-founder
  • Barrel-Aged Vanilla Porter – Barrel-Aged Porter
  • Freaky Deaky – Belgian Tripel – 10%

Odell Brewing Co. - Doug Odell, Founder
  • Drumroll – American Pale Ale – 5.3%
  • Additional selection TBD

Brewery Ommegang - Justin Forsythe, Innovation Manager
  • Rosetta – Fruit Beer – 5.6%
  • Additional selection TBD

On Rotation - Jacob & Lindsay Sloan, Founders/Head Brewers
  • Café Au Lait (randallized w/ cinnamon & vanilla) – Sweet Stout – 6.6%
  • Blackberry Mint Julep – Saison – 6.2%

Oskar Blues Brewery - Dale Katechis, Owner and Michael Harris, Brewmaster
  • Texas Reeb Rye’d IPA – Rye Ale – 7%
  • Death By Coconut – Porter – 6.5%

Peticolas Brewing Co. - Michael Peticolas, Founder/Owner/Head Brewer and Melissa Peticolas, Founder/Owner
  • A Lost Epic – Belgian Tripel – 11%
  • 2015 Black Curtains – Imperial Stout – 11%

Rabbit Hole Brewing - Laron Cheek, Matt Morriss, & Tom Anderson – Co-founders
  • Rum Barrel-Aged Rapture – Barrel-Aged Brown Ale – 6.4%
  • Off With Your Red – India Pale Ale – 7.9%

Rahr Brewing Co. - Fritz Rahr, Founder
  • Bourbon Barrel-Aged Regulator – Barrel-Aged Doppelbock – 8.5%
  • Tenderfoot – Barley Wine – 11.5%

Real Ale Brewing Co. - Brad Farbstein, Owner
  • Axis IPA – India Pale Ale – 7%
  • Mysterium Verum Highlander – Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale – 10.1%

Revolver Brewing - Rhett Keisler, Founder and Grant Wood, Brewmaster
  • Yam Dankee – Sweet Potato IPA – 7%
  • Bourbon Barrel Anodyne – Barrel-Aged Wheat Wine – 12.7%

Saint Arnold Brewing Co. - Attendees TBD
  • Bishop’s Barrel 15 – Barrel-Aged Barley Wine – 13.1%
  • 5 O’clock Pils – Pilsener - 5.2%

Shannon Brewing Co. - Attendees TBD
  • Double IPA – Double IPA – 8.2%
  • Wee Heavy – Scotch Ale – 8.5%

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Attendees TBD
  • Estate Homegrown Northern Hemisphere – India Pale Ale – 6.7%
  • Celebration – India Pale Ale – 6.8%

Stone Brewing Co. - Steve Wagner, Co-founder/President/Senior Brewmaster
  • Double Bastard on Rye – Barrel-Aged American Strong Ale – 12.7%
  • 20th Anniversary Citracado IPA – Double IPA – 9%

SweetWater Brewing Co. - Nick Nock, Head Brewer
  • Smokey and the Brett – Wild Ale – 7.3%
  • 420 Extra Pale Ale – American Pale Ale – 5.7%

Texas Ale Project - Brent Thompson, Co-founder/Head Brewer
  • 50 Ft Jackrabbit – India Pale Ale – 7%
  • Oaty McOatface – Sweet Stout – 7.5%

The Bruery - Jeremy Grinkey, Bruery Terreux Production Manager
  • Poterie – Barrel-Aged Old Ale – 16.8%
  • Quadrupel Tonnellerie – Barrel-Aged Wild Ale – 10.2%

Wild Acre Brewing Co. - John Pritchett, Founder and Mike Kraft, Brewmaster
  • Tarantula Hawk – India Pale Ale – 6.5%
  • Soul O’ Coco – Stout

**Note – selections subject to change**

Thursday, November 3, 2016

An historical foray for Stout Day

Copyright © 2016 The Beer Goddess.

Today, it's all about the stout. That's because it's International Stout Day, a celebration of dark, decadent brews that got its start in 2011. So, in the spirit of that, I offer up a short synopsis of stouts that have been available at different times in North Texas history. Hey, it's what I do...I read old books and newspapers to learn how our scene has evolved. Sometimes such explorations also involve the consumption of beer...and more often than not, what I'm drinking is exactly the kind of rich, roasty and/or chocolately brew that inspired the creation of the day.


Drinking stout in pre-Prohibition Dallas

North Texans were drinking stout, or at least a kind of beer that would evolve into what was called a stout (more on that in a moment) as early as 1873. "Brown Stout Porter" could be found for sale at area grocers alongside imported lagers and Scotch ales. Many early listings don't credit the brewer, but C.G. Hibbert of London was likely the bottler of the stout porter advertised, since regular shipments from the firm were arriving at the Port of Galveston during the same period of time.

Dallas Daily Herald (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 1, No. 42, Ed. 1 Sunday, March 30, 1873, newspaper, Dallas, Texas. ( accessed November 2, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,

With regards to that other famous stout, Guinness was being sold early on by locals as well (purportedly for medicinal purposes), though it doesn't appear in Dallas newspaper ads until around 1881. Shipments to Galveston show Guinness being sent to Texas by 1865, but it's not clear when it was first stocked in North Texas. Many times the beer was billed as Burke's Guinness Dublin Stout, due to the fact that Guinness didn't bottle its own products until well after Prohibition. Back then, they used a network of bottlers to package and ship their beer to America. Edward and John Burke, who were grandsons of Arthur Guinness, owned one such distribution company and the U.S. was their largest market.

The Dallas Daily Herald. (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. XXIVII, No. 132, Ed. 1 Saturday, April 30, 1881, newspaper, Dallas, Texas. ( accessed November 2, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,
"Imperial" is the new "stout"

It's true! Well, sort of. During the 1800s, stouts actually grew out of a stronger version of porter usually referred to as "stout porter." Nowadays, whenever a brewery releases a stronger version of a particular style, they add the imperial tag (imperial IPA, imperial saison, imperial brown ale, etc.). So, if you think about it, given the seemingly similar style guidelines between porters and stouts, in today's lingo a stout could also be called an imperial porter. Looking at things in those terms, you might say "imperial" is the new "stout."

Big beers were a part of the '90s boom

In the mid-to-late 1990s, when brewpubs dominated the local beer scene after being legalized in 1993, stouts were actually relatively common. Yegua Creek Brewing Co., the area's first brewpub, was probably the first local spot to brew a stout, but at least a half-dozen other brewpubs offered a stout at one time or another. A couple of them were even award winners:
  • Copper Tank - Mocha Madness Coffee Stout, gold medal in the Herb/Spice Beers category at the 1998 Great American Beer Festival.
  • Two Rows - Imperial Stout, bronze medal in the Imperial Stout category at the 2000 Great American Beer Festival.
Something worth noting about these two beers is that the brewers involved in their creation are still active in the brew scene today. Jon Sims, formerly of Four Corners, Oak Highlands and Texas Ale Project (but, now working at Wynkoop in Colorado), was an assistant brewer at Copper Tank in 1998, while Mike Kraft, currently the director of brewing operations at Wild Acre, was running the brewhouse at Two Rows in 2000.

The first locally-crafted stout beer and whiskey blend?

Speaking of Two Rows, that brewpub might have been considered ahead of its time based on one beer it produced. Years before barrel-aged beers would become commonplace, Two Rows whipped up a beer and bourbon blend called Wild Turkey Stout. If memory serves, it hit taps sometime around 2003, and much like the stronger beers of today, it was served in a smaller vessel due to its higher ABV.

Moving past the new Millennium

After the year 2000, Fort Worth's Healthy Brew included a stout in its organic lineup, while Great Grains of Dallas was brewing Wildcatter's Crude Stout, a recipe they licensed from the by-then defunct Yellow Rose Brewing Co. of San Antonio. The Covey in Fort Worth had one as well, called Smokestack Stout. That beer won a silver medal in the Smoke-Flavored Beer category at the 2009 Los Angeles International Beer Competition. Then, of course, came Snowmageddon, an imperial oatmeal stout that commemorates the great roof collapse that occurred at Rahr & Sons in 2010.

While still being brewed by Yellow Rose Brewing of San Antonio, Wildcatter's Crude Stout
was singled out as a Gold Medal winner by the Beverage Tasting Institute.

Left: Armadillo's Quakertown Stout won gold in the Imperial Stout category at GABF in 2014.
Right: Sasquatch from 903 Brewers won silver in the Aged Beer category at GABF in 2015.

As for the here and now, North Texas currently has a plethora of obsidian offerings. Most are familiar with names like Community Legion, The Temptress from Lakewood and others, but let's not forget about the two locally-brewed stouts that have brought home major awards during the current craft beer renaissance (see details in the caption above). One, that being Sasquatch from 903 Brewers , is likely stalking your local store shelves as we speak. And, the other? That would be Quakertown Stout, the product of Denton-based Armadillo Ale Works...a beer that will re-appear soon.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Shannon launching Wee Heavy, November 6

Image courtesy of Shannon Brewing Co.

Perhaps as a hint to Mother Nature to bring on some cooler weather, Shannon Brewing Co. will look to get an early start on winter with the release of its Wee Heavy (8.5% ABV, 27 IBU) on November 6.

First debuting as a limited edition during American Craft Beer week in May, Shannon Wee Heavy will now be a winter seasonal for the two year-old brewery. And, as was the case for Honey Porter, Shannon's fall seasonal, Wee Heavy will be available on draft throughout the Metroplex, with cans being sold only at the brewery.

Characterized as "rich, full-bodied and slightly sweet," Shannon Wee Heavy is designed to be malt-forward, with hints of caramel and baked fruit, balanced by a slight noble hop aroma. It's also said to be "surprisingly easy to drink, with a subtle peat character and an enjoyable alcohol warmth."

Launch parties for Shannon Wee Heavy are scheduled to occur at various North Texas locations over the next two weeks, the details of which are provided below.

November 4
  • Oak St. Draft House, Denton - 7 p.m. - Tap Takeover and Wee Heavy launch party.
November 17
  • Taverna Rossa, Plano - 6 p.m. - Special tapping featuring Shannon Wee Heavy and Shannon Hazelnut Chocolate Stout.
November 18
  • Old Chicago, Ft. Worth - 6:30 p.m. - Tap Takeover and Wee Heavy launch party, with glassware and t-shirt giveaways while supplies last.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Champagne Ale a final toast to Franconia's World Tour

Image courtesy of Franconia Brewing Co.

Representing the final stop on the brewery's 2016 World Tour, this week Franconia Brewing Co. of McKinney will bottle and release its Champagne Ale (~7% ABV).

Now, whether you realize it or not, that statement actually contains two bits of news. That's because the World Tour series was originally supposed to consist of four beers (including English Stout, Belgium Ale and another), but owner Dennis Wehrmann says there's been a slight change of plans.

"We're going to close out the World Tour with Champagne Ale," said Wehrmann. "The Baltic Porter, which was originally going to be the final World Tour beer, is now becoming our regular winter seasonal."

That means Winter Wheat, Franconia's original winter offering, will enter into hibernation for the time being.

Graphics for Franconia Baltic Porter will still feature the design intended for the World Tour line, with the
"Seasonal" designation replacing that of the "World Tour 2016" along the top of the circular logo (Franconia Brewing Co.).

As for Champagne Ale, Wehrmann says the brewery employed the same recipe it used when the beer first debuted as one of five brews released in association with Franconia's fifth anniversary in 2013. Essentially a take on a bière brut, Champagne Ale is brewed with a wheat beer base that's then fermented with French champagne yeast.

Speaking of the 2013 vintage, over the past three years you may have noticed parts of the original batch appear occasionally as a festival offering. In fact, one of the last remaining kegs from 2013 tapped as recently as the 2016 Big Texas Beer Fest.

The implication there is that Champagne Ale is a beer that's expected to age well. Fresh out of the tank the beer features upfront elements of pineapple, passion fruit and other tropicals, with a hint of tartness coming out in a finish that's dry and slightly vinous. Yet, if the 2013 edition is any indication, this beer will grow even more complex over time.

"Champagne Ale will be highly carbonated, and with a little of the inactive yeast in there, this beer is perfect for aging," stated Wehrmann. "After two years, more tartness will develop and it will become even more wine-like."

Look for Champagne Ale to be offered on draft and in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles. A series of launch events is also expected to occur, with special World Tour glassware to be offered at select locations.

Friday, October 21, 2016

GABF 2016: Dropping in on Downtown Denver breweries

A few days before leaving for this year's Great American Beer Festival (GABF), I saw a post on social media suggesting that attending the event is something that should be on everyone's beer bucket list. I certainly agree, though for me it's about more than just the festival itself. That and the competition may be what draws brewers and their fans to Denver each year, but the array of festivities that go on in and around the city all week long is what makes the entire experience a must-do in my eyes.

In additional to smaller events and the slew of rare tappings that happen day and night throughout Denver and beyond, there are larger events like the Denver Rare Beer Tasting, Epic Brewing's Firkin Fiasco, The Oskar Blues Brewery Ordeal and a little thing that has origins in Texas, the Beerliner & Chill.

On top of that, there are always a few breweries that choose GABF week as a platform for debuting new products. While the curtain is usually pulled back during a media-only event to start, you can almost always find these beers being poured on the opening night of the festival. Examples this year included the unveiling of Pils World from Ska Brewing, The Smoothness from Great Divide and a Grilled Pineapple Golden Ale from New Belgium (the result of a burger-inspired collaboration with Red Robin restaurants).

For me, though, while the Beerliner is always on my evening itinerary, if you've read my GABF recaps in the past, you know that brewery hopping is how I like to spend my spare time during the day. In the spirit of that, thoughts on those visited while on my 2016 GABF adventure are provided below. As an added bonus, this year I was accompanied on many a stop by Matt Dixon, co-founder of Dallas Brew Scene (DBS) and Executive Director of North Texas Beer Week. So, in the diary of drinking that follows, you'll find commentary based on our shared experience. You can also read Dixon's own personal rundown on the DBS website by clicking here.


Stops on the Beer in Big D/Dallas Brew Scene brewery tour...

  • Wynkoop Brewing Co.
Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

If memory serves, it was 2003 when I last went by Wynkoop Brewing Co., a.k.a. Colorado's original brewpub. But, dropping in this year was a given, considering low long-time North Texas brewer John Sims (formerly of Copper Tank, Four Corners, Oak Highlands, Texas Ale Project and others) recently re-located there to take the reins as head brewer. These days, the Koop keeps upwards of 30 beers on tap, including more than 20 of its own. And on this visit, the lineup included the brewpub's infamous bull testicle beer, Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout.

As for how Dixon and I ended up there...

"Sims invited us to hop in a pedicab and head with him over to the brewery for lunch and a few beers," recalls Dixon. "I can only imagine what a sight three gentlemen of our size packed into a tiny pedicab seat, barreling through the streets of Downtown Denver, was to pedestrians. Not the mention the strain on our poor driver."

It turns out that two of the pedestrians who witnessed our jaunt were none other than Michael and Melissa Peticolas (and other members of the Peticolas Brewing Co. crew)...but that might only be because we screamed out a toast to them (with GABF session glasses in hand) as we rolled on down the road.

  • Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Dixon and I had both checked out Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project before at its location at The Source, and considering the brewery made the move there in 2013, it probably makes sense that we saw many of the same differences when comparing the past and present feel of the place. Brewing equipment that once filled space off to one side was no more, allowing for expanded seating which Dixon felt gave the taproom a "much more relaxed feel."

Something else we noticed was how Crooked Stave makes a series of "Petite" sour beers with fruited variants that brought to mind the Petite Golden Sour line made by The Collective Brewing Project of Ft. Worth.

  • Great Divide Barrel Bar
Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Due to a certain affinity I have for the brewery's Yeti Imperial Stout and all its variations, a visit to Great Divide Brewing Co.'s taproom is always in the cards when I'm visiting Downtown Denver. In the past, that meant hitting up the brewery on Arapahoe St., but now there are two places to get your drink on after the company opened Great Divide Barrel Bar in the River North neighborhood in 2015. Last year, crowds kept me away, but this time around Dixon and I made it stop three on our impromptu brewery tour.

On the atmosphere side, it's not a huge space, seating only about 40, but Dixon probably summed it up best by saying, "From the wooden staves hanging from the ceiling above the bar to the wooden furniture, the Barrel Bar lived up to its name and is worth checking out."

Beer-wise, options on the night in question included The Smoothness (a beer created in association with Jameson's Drinking Buddies initiative), the nitro-infused Velvet Yeti and barrel-aged versions of Hibernation and Old Ruffian.

  • Mockery Brewing
Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Mere steps away from Great Divide's Barrel Bar is another relatively new Downtown Denver brewery in the form of Mockery Brewing. It's a cool little spot that Dixon described as has having a "distinctly industrial vibe...with a unique fixture of pipes and lights surrounding the brewery's logo on the wall."

Having been here before, my impressions mainly centered around the fact that only one or two of the beers on tap were repeats from when I bellied up to the bar just last year. According to the bartender, that's the norm at the brewery, where constant rotation is just the way they do business.

We both thought Generation Boom, a big wine barrel-aged quadrupel, was probably the best beer on the board the night of our visit. Dixon also singled out Turn That Down Upside Down, a sour brown ale with cocoa nibs and cherries, and Shout at the Pineapple, a peachy and peppercorn-infused IPA.

  • Black Shirt Brewing Co.
Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

They may be wearing black at Black Shirt Brewing Co., but all you'll see is red. That's because all of the brewery's beers are red...the gose, the saison, the porter and any other style you can think of...all of The black thing has to do with representing the counter culture, while the red thing is about picking something and trying to do it better than anyone else. In this case, that means focusing exclusively on red ales.

And, while I spent my time at Black Shirt replaying a soundtrack in my head that consisted of the songs "I See Red" by the Split Enz, and "Red Skies at Night" by The Fixx...Dixon managed to maintain focus enough to recall details regarding both the atmosphere and the beer.

"The brewery is very music forward, so the place appealed directly to my two biggest inner geeks (that would be music and beer)," said Dixon. "They even had a farmhouse triple IPA on tap called Box of Boom in honor of My Morning Jacket's album 'Z.' As for some others, Ocean of Noise, a gose brewed with yuzu, lemongrass, Hawaiian red gold sea salt and dry-hopped with Equinox and Hallertau Blanc, and At Dawn, a Milk Chocolate Oatmeal Red Porter, were two of the more memorable Black Shirt beers."

Solo stops...

Bierstadt Lagerhaus

Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

This place had me at copper kettles. Well that and I have been known to enjoy a traditional German lager or two. Brought to you by a group that includes the former brewmaster of Downtown Denver's other German brewery, Prost Brewing, Bierstadt Lagerhaus is part of a hulking complex that also houses a cidery and on-site restaurant. As you've probably gathered, German standards are order of the day here, with a Helles, Dunkel and Slow Pour Pils being among the everyday offerings.

Tivoli Beer Co.

Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Tivoli Brewing Co. was my last stop before heading to the airport on this trip, and it was also the brewery I enjoyed visiting the most. And, the reason was entirely to do with the history behind the place. You see, at Tivoli it's a "what's old is new again" kind of thing. The original brewery has origins that date back to 1859 and the business continued to operate, with the exception of Prohibition, up until 1969. A revival of the brand occurred in 2012, with the brewpub of today being located on the lower level of the old brewery building. The structure, which also serves as the student union for three local colleges, also features signs and exhibits that tell story of Tivoli beer.

As for the brewpub, three of Tivoli's six year-round beers are inspired by products of yesteryear; Tivoli Helles, Tivoli Neef Bros. Bohemian Girl Pilsner and Tivoli Jet Malt Liquor. Those combine with outside offerings to make up a tap list consisting of 40 beers, the majority of which are supplied by small, local breweries from Colorado and surrounding states.