Friday, January 29, 2016

Local brewers among 2016 Best of Craft Beer winners

Six North Texas brewers are among the honorees recently announced for the 2016 Best of Craft Beer Awards.

Billed as "America's newest craft beer contest", the BJCP-sanctioned Best of Craft Beer Awards competition awarded its first medals in 2014, making this the third annual event for the Bend, Oregon-based organization. This year, 65 different styles of beer were evaluated, with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded in each category. Judging was carried out by professional judges and industry leaders, and it should be noted that some medals were not awarded in categories with limited entries.

Winners from North Texas include:

Bitters Sisters Brewery
  • Silver for Busy Body Blonde Lager in the Helles or Helles Bock category.
  • Bronze for Family Trip in the Belgian Tripel category.
  • Silver for Wealth & Taste in the Specialty Wood-Aged category.
  • Bronze for NightWatch in the Oatmeal Stout category.
  • Gold for Blue Lacy in the American Brown Ale category.
  • Gold for 10/6 in the English Pale or English IPA category.
  • Gold for Chocolate Stout in the Sweet Stout category.
  • Silver for IPA in the English Pale or English IPA category.

Cheers and congratulations to all!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Snowmageddon, Iron Thistle returning from Rahr & Sons

Image credit: Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.

Two seasonal beers from the area's oldest craft brewery are set to return in the coming days, as Rahr & Sons readies the 2016 releases of Iron Thistle and Snowmageddon.

Of these, Snowmageddon will be the first to appear, with deliveries scheduled for the week of January 25. That beer, an imperial oatmeal stout, is an annual tribute to those who supported the brewery during its rebuilding process after a snow-induced roof collapse in 2010.

Following Snowmageddon will be Iron Thistle, which looks to hit retail and draft accounts beginning February 1. Stylistically described as a strong Scotch ale, Iron Thistle won Rahr & Sons its first-ever medal at the Great American Beer Festival, bringing home silver in 2012.

Then, last but not least, fans of Snowmageddon will soon see the arrival of that beer aged in bourbon barrels. Details are few at this point, but according to a press release this beer is expected to debut in March with limited availability.

Consumers can search for these and other Rahr & Sons products on sale in their area by using the Rahr Finder on the brewery's website. It can be found at

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Funkwerks to offer Nelson Sauvin year-round in 4-packs

Image credit: Funkwerks.

Becoming the latest beer to be packaged by the brewery in smaller-format 330 mL bottles, Funkwerks has announced the addition of Nelson Sauvin to its year-round lineup.

A single-hopped saison ale, Nelson Sauvin is named after the hop variety that is used in its making. It's described by Funkwerks as having the "aroma of gooseberries, honeydew melon and a hint of spiciness from the brewery's house saison yeast strain."

As for the hop itself, the Nelson Sauvin variety comes from New Zealand and is known for its distinctive white wine character. In this case, the hops work with the addition of Muscat grape juice to enhance the beer's fruit attributes, while also contributing to its crisp, dry finish.

"We've brewed Nelson a few times as an experimental [release] and it has always been very popular, particularly among our staff" says Gordon Shuck, co-founder and head brewer. Now, not only will the beer be available full-time, customers will also have the convenience of being able to purchase it in 4-packs of 330 ml bottles. Funkwerks began bottling in the smaller format last year, a decision co-founder Brad Lincoln suggests was influenced by the fact that "people tend to save larger bottles of beer for a special occasion or to share with others." With smaller bottles, he explains, people can purchase and enjoy a single beer without having to commit to something larger.

According to a press release, bottles of Nelson Sauvin should arrive in North Texas by late February.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

On the first pour of Peticolas' new Pick Hammer

A pour of Peticolas Pick Hammer (© Brian Brown/Beer In Big D).

Introduced at a small-scale event called "Making a Hammerer: A Peticolas Original Series," Pick Hammer debuted last night as the newest beer in the portfolio of the family-owned Peticolas Brewing Company. Billed as a lighter gravity version of Velvet Hammer, the new offering follows Sledge Hammer in being derived from the Dallas brewery's flagship beer.

Along those lines, according to owner Michael Peticolas, Pick Hammer is made by utilizing the final wort runnings of two separate batches of Velvet Hammer. For those that aren't familiar, "runnings" refers to the wort collected after residual sugars are rinsed (or sparged) from the grain bed. Less sugar is extracted later in the process, and since yeast converts sugar into alcohol (and carbon dioxide) during fermentation, wort obtained from final runnings will result in a lower alcohol beer.

Now, in traditional terms, a beer made with final runnings might be referred to as a "small beer," but in this case I would say that Pick Hammer isn't anything of the sort. While it's lighter and not as strong when compared to Velvet Hammer (9% ABV), the new beer isn't "light" and it certainly isn't weak. Pick Hammer has plenty of body, and it's no slouch in the strength department given an ABV of just under 7% .

So, how does it compare to Velvet Hammer in terms of taste? Well, as you might expect, the two beers are similar, but different.

Like its predecessor, Pick Hammer is a dark, reddish-brown beer with elements of caramel and brown sugar. Where it differs, though, is in how the beer attains its balance. Velvet Hammer is more malt-forward, balanced by a combination of its floral hop character and the beer's alcohol bite. Pick Hammer, though, doesn't really have that boozy factor to fall back on, so it seems to rely on a slightly stronger hop presence to help keep things in line.

Other than that, though, my impression is that the two products taste a lot like the same beer. In fact, should you choose to read the commercial description for Velvet Hammer, which I actually wrote some years ago, you'll see I've purposely used a lot of the same terms up above for consistency.

From the brewery's website:

"...Velvet Hammer appears as a dark, ruby reddish-brown ale beneath a sheath of protective off-white foam. It is malt-forward with elements of caramel and the sweetness of light brown sugar, balanced nicely by a combination of floral hops and a noticeable alcohol bite. It’s a sturdy brew with a smooth character which belies both an inner strength and a slightly full body, along with a moderate bitterness to round out the taste."

As far as whether or not Pick Hammer is sessionable, Michael's wife Melissa summed it up best when she suggested "It's a session beer for us," clearly referring to some of the more potent beers the brewery is known for. That sentiment was shared by at least one patron, who when pitting Pick Hammer up against the original said, "You could probably drink a few of these before getting," you guessed it, "completely hammered."

Pick Hammer is draft-only and available for a limited time. In addition to the events listed below, look for it to show up at places where beer-to-go is an option, like Whole Foods, Lakewood Growler and Lone Star Taps & Caps.

Thursday, January 21:

Buy the beer, keep the glass (while supplies last) at....

Craft & Growler, Dallas - 6 p.m.
Dallas Beer Kitchen, Dallas - 6 p.m.
Fillmore Pub, Plano - 6 p.m.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bach & Beer come together for classical pairing at Tupps, February 4

Image credit: Music in Familiar Spaces (

Bringing together what some might consider to be two of the finer things in life, internationally-recognized cellist Steuart Pincombe will partner with Tupps Brewery for Bach & Beer, a unique pairing event to be held at the brewery's location in McKinney on Thursday, February 4 at 7 p.m.

Named as one of the "Top Ten classical music events of 2014" by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Bach & Beer is concert series being put on in association with the Music in Familiar Spaces project. This initiative seeks to make classical music accessible to a wide-ranging audience by holding performances in "familiar, comfortable and nontraditional spaces." Different events, all part of a yearlong tour, are scheduled at homes, churches, cafés, and local breweries as a way to allow listeners to experience classical music in new and engaging ways.

According to a press release, each of three musical pieces performed by Pincombe during Bach & Beer will be paired with one of the host brewery's beers. "Audience members will discover the connections between the art of brewing and the art of playing the music of Bach while sipping on their favorite brews from Tupps. Just as many brewers follow a recipe that was used hundreds of years ago, Steuart's approach to playing Bach also looks back on old 'recipes' and methods of playing. The program of Bach's Cello Suites will be interlaced with short explanations of Steuart's historical, interpretive approach along with comments on the historical brewing method of each beer."

The concert at Tupps is presented in collaboration with Music & Arts at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. St. Peter's will host Pincombe and his wife Michele in the sanctuary of the McKinney church for a performance of sacred early American music on Saturday, February 6 at 8 p.m.

Regarding the brewery event, those attending will be asked to name-their-own-ticket price, paying what they can afford and what they deem the concert is worth. Beer will be sold separately.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Legal Draft serves notice on new brewery in Arlington

Image credit: Legal Draft Beer Company

Just days after the grand opening of the city's first ever production brewery, comes news that yet another is set to begin construction in Arlington.

Legal Draft Beer Co. will be located at 500 E. Division, right across the railroad tracks from Division Brewing's new spot on Main Street. The city's second brewery, and third active brewing operation overall, will be built using 14,000 square feet of an existing 25,000 square foot building, with plans calling for renovations both inside and outside of the space.

According to Legal Draft founder Greg McCarthy, the brewery's interior will house the production area and a 2000 square foot climate-controlled taproom, with a 4000 square foot exterior layout consisting of a covered patio, shaded arbor and landscaped beer garden. McCarthy's intent is for the environment to be family friendly, something he hopes to encourage by offering house-made sodas for kids and other non-drinking customers.

Legal Draft's brewery is part of the Union Arbor redevelopment project being
managed by Dodson Development (image the property of Dodson Development).

Regarding production, McCarthy has acquired a 17-barrel brewhouse designed by IDD Process & Packaging, Inc. of California. The high-efficiency system is capable of completing up to a half-dozen batches in 12 hours, which means Legal Draft will have the ability to brew over 100 barrels of beer per day. While the brewery won't be going at full capacity right away, McCarthy says the setup will allow him to focus future expansions on adding fermentation tanks without having to buy another brewhouse.

Running things will be Henryk Orlik, a Doemens-trained German brewmaster who most recently worked at Big Bend Brewing in Alpine, Texas. Orlik has been brewing in the U.S. for 30 years, and is open to creating all styles of beer, not just those of his home country. The current thinking is he'll develop an opening lineup of five beers (a blonde lager, an amber lager, an IPA, a hefeweizen and a stout), then move on to other things. McCarthy says that Orlik is keen on on many of craft beer's currently popular trends, so eventually consumers could see Legal Draft branch out into sour beers or the occasional barrel-aged brew.

The legal theme, which stems from McCarthy's background as an attorney, will extend down to beer names as well, with Legal Blonde Lager and Accused Amber Lager expected to be among the first products out the door. In addition to rolling out beer in kegs, Legal Draft will can its beers from the get-go, though seasonals and limited releases may find their way into 22-ounce bombers in the future.

As far as when it will happen, McCarthy hopes to be shipping beer by April, with a taproom grand opening to occur around the same time. Like with all new breweries, though, the actual date will depend on TABC approvals.

Legal Draft Beer Co.
500 E. Division Street

Monday, January 4, 2016

Firestone Walker bringing 805 beer to Texas

Image credit: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Breaking the product out of its home state, Firestone Walker announced today that the brewery will begin shipping 805 beer to Texas.

Debuting in 2012, the beer billed as a "light, refreshing blonde ale crafted for the California lifestyle," was originally brewed to serve the tri-county area of California's Central Coast. Since then, 805's footprint has expanded somewhat, though prior to today the beer has remained a California exclusive. Now, for the first time in its history, 805 will be sold outside of the state.

"When 805 was available only on the Central Coast, people bootlegged it down to Los Angeles," says brewery co-founder David Walker. "Now that we're in Los Angeles, people are bootlegging it to Nevada and Arizona. The beer is telling us where it wants to go."

Added fellow co-founder Adam Firestone, "The beer is driving its own eastward expansion, but now we can make sure it's properly transported, chilled and accessible."

According to a press release, 805 will begin appearing across Texas during the month of January. Firestone Walker is handled by Andrews Distributing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Division Brewing now open in Arlington

Image credit: Division Brewing.

Establishing itself as the first production brewery in Arlington, Division Brewing held its grand opening last Thursday during an event that served as a sort of New Year's Eve pre-game party. Occurring on the same night as the Cotton Bowl going on at nearby AT&T Stadium, game day traffic didn't seem to be a deterrent, as a sizable crowd made its way to see the newest brewing operation in North Texas.

The work of owner Wade Wadlington and brewer Sean Cooley, Division occupies a warehouse just off the tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad in Downtown Arlington. Brewing has been underway for a couple of months, with some beers debuting during North Texas Beer Week in November, but Thursday's event was the public's first opportunity to get an up-close look at the actual brewery.

A 4-burner pilot system, mash-tun and a set of small-scale fermenters make
up Division's production setup (© Brian Brown/Beer In Big D, click to enlarge).

Consisting of just over 3000 square feet, the interior of the building is essentially a unified taproom and brewery. On the production side of things, Division is a nano-brewery, with an equipment inventory made up of a Psycho Brew 4-Burner Pilot System, a 7-barrel mash tun and a group of (no bigger than) 10-barrel conical fermenters. Opposite those items is the bar and tapwall-fronted cold box, with table seating, pallets of grain and a stack of wood barrels taking up additional room. Given all of that, it may not seem like a huge space on the inside, but visitors also have access to a few thousand square feet or more of outdoor area.

Seventeen beers were tapped on opening day, including a grissette called
Fare Thee Well (© Brian Brown/Beer In Big D, click to enlarge).
Of course, as is the case for all breweries, Division's primary attraction is the beer. And, based on what was offered on day one, the brewery plans to make plenty of that available. No fewer than 17 beers were on tap for the opening, with options covering a number of different styles. Included among beers of American, English and Belgian influence were a couple of farmhouse ales, a Berliner weisse and 7 IPAs (of varying ABV & IBU values). Of those I tried, my favorites were Fare Thee Well, a yeasty, funky and fruity grissette, and X-Mas Morning, an even-keeled coconut chocolate porter.

As for distribution, indications are that the brewery won't begin delivering to local accounts for another month or two. That means, at least for now, if you're looking to check out what Division has to offer, you'll have to make the trek to Arlington. Even then, you'll have to exercise a little patience, since the brewery won't be open again until January 30. Based on my initial impressions, though, it's worth the trip, especially if the price of admission stays the same. As brewery tours go, the trip to Division was a relative bargain, considering $15 got you a pint glass (or snifter) and five full pours.

Division Brewing
506 E. Main Street