Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rahr & Sons shifts The Fort Worth to year-round status

Looking to keep up with the growing demand for canned craft beers, Rahr & Sons of Fort Worth recently installed a new, larger canning line capable of producing up to 1200 cases per day. The move, which doubled the brewery's capacity, was no doubt a precursor to an announcement today related to changes in the packaging and availability of two of its beers.

The Fort Worth will be the sixth beer in Rahr & Sons' year-round lineup.

The first of these changes involves The Fort Worth, a beer named in honor of the U.S. Navy's littoral combat ship, USS Fort Worth. It was first released as a seasonal brew in August 2015, but going forward The Fort Worth will be offered year-round, both on draft and in 12-ounce cans. As was the case upon its introduction, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the beer will go to the USS Fort Worth Support Committee, an organization which provides moral support for the ship's crew and families.

According to a press release, Rahr & Sons will celebrate the release of The Fort Worth by hosting a tasting at the brewery on Armed Forces Day to benefit The USO. Happening Saturday, May 21 from 1 to 3 p.m., all who attend will receive a red, white or blue commemorative pint glass. General admission is $10, with past or present military members paying only $5 admission with identification.

Commemorative red, white and blue pint glasses will also be given away
during a release party at Lola's Trailer Park in Fort Worth on Saturday, May 28 at 1 p.m.

As part of the festivities, Rahr & Sons will present the USS Fort Worth Support Committee with a check for more than $2,000 based on sales of the beer during its initial release.

“The Rahr & Sons brew crew is honored to be able to give back to the USS Fort Worth crew,” said owner Fritz Rahr. “The Fort Worth is just a small way to support those who make big sacrifices to serve our country.”

Summertime Wheat is brewed with Warrior hops and four different types of malt.

Also revealed today, Rahr & Sons will package Summertime Wheat in cans for the first time in May. The beer, which is described by the brewery as an American wheat ale, has been a staple of Rahr & Sons' seasonal lineup since it debuted in 2006.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Armadillo Ale Works joins up with Andrews

Image courtesy of Armadillo Ale Works.

Following recent news of plans to re-introduce itself into the market, Armadillo Ale Works revealed today that it will partner with Andrews for the distribution of its beers once production starts back up this summer.

Founded by Yianni Arestis and Bobby Mullins, Armadillo Ale Works began "representin' Denton" with a lineup of beers inspired by the history and culture of that city in January 2013. Since then, the pair has gone on to produce Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, Quakertown Imperial Oatmeal Stout, Brunch Money Imperial Golden Stout and Wundermelon Watermelon Kölsch. Of those, Quakertown was the first to be recognized with a major award after the beer won a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.

Arestis, who is also Armadillo's chief executive officer, said the team is looking forward to learning from Andrews and collaborating with them to expand the brewery's reach and vision.

"We are looking forward to working more closely with the people from Andrews," Arestis said. "We've been impressed with the caliber of team members we've met thus far and we think there is a lot of knowledge for us to gain in the future. We were very glad to find a company that understands our vision and concept so well and is excited to help us achieve our goals."

Kelli Hopson, Andrews brand manager for Armadillo, said the new partnership will create exciting opportunities to share great local beers with Dallas-Fort Worth craft beer lovers.

"We have been so impressed by the story of Armadillo Ale Works since our first encounter with Bobby and Yianni," Hopson said. "They are developing a portfolio of unique beer styles that incorporate local, and some unexpected, ingredients. Andrews is honored to be the partner that will get Armadillo beer back in the hands of local beer drinkers."

According to a press release, Andrews will kick-off the launch of Armadillo Ale Works this summer with a new draft offering to be called Honey Please. Billed as a beer with deep roots, Honey Please is a blonde ale brewed with Texas wildflower honey and mesquite beans. The addition of mesquite beans in alcohol production dates back to the early 20th century, and it's said their use will give the new beer a complexity of flavors unmatched by any other.

For the time being, Armadillo's beers will be brewed under an agreement signed with North Texas Brewing Co. of Grapevine. That is, until construction of its new brewery is completed in Downtown Denton, something which is expected to happen in time for a grand opening in the fall.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Three North Texas breweries win medals at 2016 L.A. International Beer Competition

Image credit: Fairplex.
Results are in from the 2016 Los Angeles International Beer Competition, and three North Texas brewers are among the honorees.

Put on by Fairplex, in association with the Los Angeles County Fair, the commercial beer competition has been going on since 2000. Beers are judged using a blind-tasting method with the goal of awarding medals to the best beers from both domestic and international brewers.

This year, beers were judged in 97 different categories, with gold, silver and bronze medals being possible in each category. However, depending on the amount and/or quality of the entries, medals were not always awarded in every class.

The list of beers recognized from North Texas is as follows (click here for a complete list of winners):

Community Beer Company
  • Honorable Mention for Public Ale in the Extra Special Bitter category.
  • Bronze for Inspiration in the Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale category.
  • Silver for Yessir! in the International-Style Pale Ale category.
  • Bronze for Sin Mint Temptress in the Experimental Beer category.
  • Silver for French Quarter Temptress in the Coffee Beer category.
  • Bronze for Oktoberfest in the German-Style Märzen category.
  • Bronze for Stormcloud in the English-Style India Pale Ale category.
  • Silver for Rahr's Blonde in the Munich-Style Helles category.
  • Silver for Texas Red in the American-Style Amber/Red Ale category.

Cheers and congratulations to all!

New beers, bombers on tap for year two at Bitter Sisters

The year-round lineup at Bitter Sisters will soon include Family Trip, a Belgian-style tripel (Bitter Sisters Brewing Co.)

During a visit to Bitter Sisters on the occasion of its first anniversary last weekend, I took some time to talk to owner Matt Ehinger about what fans of the Addison brewery can look forward to as it embarks on its second year in business. Looking back on its first 12 months as a point of reference, it would seem that Ehinger has followed his original plan for the company to the letter. Of course, that's based on what he shared with me when we met prior to Bitter Sisters' grand opening last year. In addition to developing a portfolio of year-round brews, Ehinger has introduced the brewery's first seasonal and specialty beers, and has also begun work to establish a small-scale barrel program.

As for year two, Ehinger says there's more to come in all of the aforementioned areas. In terms of year-round brews, Family Trip is poised join an everyday lineup that currently consists of Busy Body Blonde Lager, Cat Fight IPA, Hissy Fit Märzen Lager and Knock Out Irish Red. Family Trip first came out last August under the name Bitter Sisters Belgian Tripel, but now that it's being bumped to year-round status, it'll be only one of two full-time North Texas tripels.

On the topic of specialty brews, Ehinger is working on three new beers to fill out that segment of the brewery's offerings. A steam beer is currently slated for the summer, to be followed by an imperial märzen and a double IPA in the fall. Ehinger says the timing of each could change, though, depending on when he settles on a recipe and how quickly each beer receives label approval.

Left: A version of Knock Out Irish Red aged in barrels from Russell's Reserve (Brian Brown).
Right: Labels are approved for the pending release of Barrel Aged Knock Out in 22-ounce bombers (Bitter Sisters Brewing Co.)

What may generate the most excitement, though, has to do with what's going on relative to Bitter Sisters' barrel program. The brewery currently has Nicaraguan rum barrels in house, as well as a stock of bourbon barrels from the likes of Russell's Reserve, Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve. Thus far, Ehinger has used the rum barrels to age Family Trip, while Knock Out has spent time in both rum and bourbon barrels. A barrel-aged Family Trip and a couple of varieties of Knock Out were tapped at the anniversary party last weekend, with the batch of Knock Out aged in Russell's Reserve barrels being particularly good. In that case, the barrels imparted notes of toffee, vanilla, and maybe even a hint of coconut, which proved to be a great compliment to the rich, malty nature of the underlying Irish red.

Regarding the availability of each of the above-mentioned barrel-aged beers, batches of Family Trip and Knock Out aged in rum casks are set to be taproom exclusives. On the bourbon barrel side of things, though, one variation will end up being the first bottled beer to emerge from Bitter Sisters, as the brewery has already gotten label approval ahead of what will be a very limited release of Barrel Aged Knock Out in 22-ounce bombers.

Beyond that, one other thing Ehinger has penciled in for the future is a move to packaged products for retail sale. That probably won't happen until 2017, but when it does the intent is to go with the canning option when it comes to Bitter Sisters' standard brews, with bombers continuing to be an option for specialty releases on into the future.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Community unveils Texas Helles

Image courtesy of Community Beer Co.

In seemingly fitting news, considering the early arrival of warmer temperatures this year, Community Beer Co. has announced it will release a new summer seasonal called Texas Helles.

Brewed using all German malt and hops, Texas Helles is fermented with a traditional Bavarian yeast strain and lagered for six weeks in order to produce a crisp, clean and easy-drinking flavor profile that should make it an ideal match for hot Texas summers.

"We feel Texas Helles is the perfect summer beer," said brewmaster Jamie Fulton. "It is great for cookouts, tailgating, the swimming pool or escaping the heat in the cool comforts of home. We brewed it with an incredible balance of European malt and hops, resulting in a clean and delightfully refreshing brew."

According to a press release, Texas Helles will be available on draft and in six-pack cans during the months of June, July and August across the brewery's distribution footprint. A kick-off party to celebrate the beer's launch will be held at Community's location in the Dallas Design District on Friday, May 20 at 5 p.m. Additional details regarding the roll-out of Texas Helles will shared as they become available on the brewery's website and social media channels.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Meddlesome Moth opens April Ale Week with Evil Twin Pairdiné

Image credits: Meddlesome Moth, Evil Twin Brewing Co.

Celebrating six years in business at its location in the Design District, The Meddlesome Moth will host a series of special tappings, pairings and special guests during April Ale Week. Going on April 18-25, the Moth's annual anniversary celebration will feature over 20 carefully selected beers to be tapped throughout the week, as well as an AleSmith Brewery Beer Brunch to occur on Saturday, April 23.

Kicking things off, though, will be an Evil Twin Pairdiné hosted by brewery founder Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. Scheduled for Monday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m., tickets for the event are available now at a cost of $75pp (plus fees) by way of Eventbrite (click here to purchase).

Meet and Greet

Low Life (pilsner, 5.5% ABV).

First Course

Ryan and the Beaster Bunny (saison, 7.0% ABV).

Baby bok choy and Asian pear salad.

Second Course

Innovator Man (Jolly Pumpkin collaboration - sour ale brewed with strawberries, 6.8% ABV).

Moulard duck rillettes.

Third Course

Bible Belt (Prairie Artisan Ales collaboration - imperial stout aged on
coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans and chili peppers, 13.0% ABV).

Smoked sakura pork short rib.

Fourth Course

Molotov Cocktail (imperial IPA, 13.0% ABV).

Roasted Texas venison soup.

Fifth Course

Soft DK (imperial stout, 10.4% ABV).

Duo of smoked almond toffee Blondie and chocolate cherry brownie.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Belgium the next stop on Franconia's World Tour

Image courtesy of Franconia brewing Co. (click to enlarge).

With the eminently drinkable English Stout preparing to wind up its run as the inaugural offering in the brewery's new World Tour Series, Franconia Brewing Co. is readying the release of what will be the next stop on its journey to explore different brewing traditions from around the globe.

For Belgium Ale (6.2% ABV), brewery owner Dennis Wehrmann left it to head brewer Cam Horn to develop a recipe inspired by the brewing traditions of Belgium, a country that lies to the west of Wehrmann's homeland in Germany. And it seems a natural choice, considering that both countries are home to a brewing heritage that dates back hundreds of years.

When it comes to making beer, though, the brewing traditions of the two countries couldn't be more different. Take the whole idea of the Reinheitsgebot, for example. Otherwise know at the German Beer Purity Law, the original version of the law limited the ingredients that could be used in the production of beer to barley, hops, water and (later) yeast. In other words, things one might find infused in a Belgian beer, like fruits, spices or even candi sugar, would not be things one would include in a traditional German beer recipe.

Some might say this puts a strain on creativity when operating within the confines of the Reinheitsgebot, but ask Wehrmann what he thinks about that and you'll get a response along the lines of, "Well, the last time I looked there wasn't just one type of variety of hop...or one strain of yeast." Indeed, outside of a couple of notable exceptions (remember the brewery's Oatmeal Stout?), Franconia has always found ways to find flavor within the four basic beer ingredients. It's that approach that has guided the brewery throughout its existence, and that's was has guided it once again in the creation of Belgium Ale.

Brewed with a mix of pale and pils malt, a traditional yeast strain and a single hop variety, Belgium Ale is a beer I would describe as fruity and funky, with a touch of spice. The funky bit comes from the yeast, of course, while the fruit and spice comes from the hop we know now as Nuggetzilla. It gives Belgium Ale a pop of pineapple flavor, which coupled with the beer's bright effervescence makes for refreshing beer that should pair well with a warm spring day.

As for when you'll be able to get it, that all depends on TABC approval. Assuming that happens over the course of the next few days, expect Belgium Ale to appear for sale on draft and in 4-packs of 12 bottles. In the meantime, you can try the new beer at the brewery in McKinney during Franconia's regular Saturday tours.

Currently scheduled events featuring Franconia Belgium Ale:

April 9 - Frisco StrEATS Gourmet Food Truck and Music Festival, 1 p.m.
April 16 - Pint Afternoon at Old Iron Post in Sherman, 3 p.m.
April 19 - Brewery Night at Lone Star Taps & Caps in Denton/Lewisville, 5 p.m.
April 21 - Pint Night at LUCK in Dallas, 5 p.m.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

North Texas Firkin Fest returns to Globe Life Park, May 21

Image courtesy of Texas Craft Brewers Guild (click to enlarge).

After a successful inaugural event in 2015, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild has announced that the North Texas Firkin Fest will return to Globe Life Park in Arlington on Saturday, May 21.

Over two dozen rare brews will be served from firkins at this year's North Texas Firkin Fest, each created by one of the 21 breweries scheduled to be in attendance (click image above to view a list). That number is up from the 15 breweries that participated in 2015, with this year's roster including 15 from North Texas alone. With cask-conditioned versions of some of your favorite beers expected to feature infusions of additional hops, fruits, herbs, spices and more, the festival will focus on delivering unique beers crafted by breweries in Dallas-Fort Worth and across the state.

In addition, the 2016 event will have a specialty beer tapwall, showcasing 10 limited release draft offerings from some of the participating breweries, giving beer aficionados even more sampling options.

According to Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the event is one of the ways the group works to advance the common interests of its members.

"Two of the key missions of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild are to educate the public about the quality and character of Texas craft beer, while also promoting that beer and our brewery members who brew it," said Vallhonrat, "The North Texas Firkin Fest is a great opportunity to educated and promote, while having awesome beer. The most unique thing about the Texas Craft Brewers Festival Series (which includes festivals in Austin and Houston as well) is that these are events produced, managed and operated by an organization of Texas craft brewers."

Discounted tickets for North Texas Firkin Fest are on sale now for a limted time, with prices ranging from $40 for general admission, or $80 for a VIP option. At both levels, attendees will receive a commemorative tasting cup and 8 sample tickets, with VIPs enjoying the added benefits of early access to the beers, a festival t-shirt and special glassware.

A complete rundown of ticketing options, including one for designated drivers ($10), can be found at the following link:

Note that after April 29, ticket prices will increase to $50 for general admission and $100 for VIP.

* Read my review of the 2015 North Texas Firkin Fest here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My 2016 Big Texas tasting card

Image credits: Brewvolution, Epic Brewing, Rabbit Hole Brewing,
Grapevine Craft Brewery, Noble Rey Brewing, On Rotation.

Looking back on the 2016 Big Texas Beer Fest (BTBF), which went down last weekend at its familiar locale in Fair Park, what more can said about an event that continues to outperform in its annual quest to deliver craft beer to the masses. Now in its fifth year, each installment has brought more breweries and more beer (140 and over 570, respectively, in 2016) to a market that didn't have much of either not so long ago, and in doing so it has helped to sow seeds of growth in a place once referred to as the craft beer wasteland that was Dallas-Fort Worth.

Of course, most who read this blog have been to BTBF a time or two, so I won't spend much time going over the particulars of the setup and supporting attractions, but I will comment on one thing that was new for 2016. For the first time in the festival's history, BTBF was a 2-day event, and I for one couldn't be happier with the change. While I would encourage first-timers to attend the Saturday session in order to experience the kind of raucous atmosphere that makes an event like this so fun and unique, this time around I found myself appreciating the more relaxed scene that Friday night had to offer. That's not to say I didn't miss the mass mockery that ensues when someone dares to drop their sample class, but at least for one night I enjoyed the dynamics of interacting with a smaller crowd.

As for the available beers, my customary approach in reviewing my sample card is to single out brews that I found to be noteworthy for one reason or another. I prefer to focus on the unfamiliar, so while beers like Firestone Walker 19 and Goose Island Regal Rye would be easy choices for a list of festival favorites, they're also beers most everyone already knows about. With that in mind, the hope is that you'll find something interesting in those I chose to talk about, which will then lead you to visit your local watering hole in order to try them for yourself.


  • Epic Son of a Baptist: As the brewery's website suggests, the aptly named Son of a Baptist shares some similarities with its father, Big Bad Baptist. The Son, though, is built primarily to showcase its rotating coffee adder, and it also isn't barrel-aged like its Big Bad dad. Still, the result isn't any less rich and roasty, it's just a pour that's a little less potent than its predecessor.
  • Noble Rey Boss Bitch: A beer that could have easily been overdone, Boss Bitch is one that seems to have been done just right. Brewed with pureed raspberries and cherries, the beer maintains a nice balance between the sweetness of the fruit and the bitterness of the dark malt components that make up the underlying porter.
  • On Rotation Café Au Lait Coffee Milk Stout: Slightly re-formulated with additional chicory compared to earlier batches, what was an already tasty brew now has a fuller feel and richer overall character from front to back.
  • Rabbit Hole's RYEteous Knight: In some ways, this was one of the rarest beers available at BTBF this year...because when is the last time you had a roggenbier? Live Oak brews one every March, and Saint Arnold produced one as part of its Icon Series, but as far as Texas-based brews are concerned that might be it. Even at the Great American Beer Festival, where around 3700 beers were made available to festival-goers in 2015, only one of those offered was a roggenbier. As for Rabbit Hole's effort, while a roggenbier can be thought of as a dunkelweizen brewed with rye instead of wheat, RYEteous Knight has a more restrained ester profile than some others I've had, which allows the rye-based grain bill to shine and the phenols from the yeast to come more into focus.
  • Grapevine Brewers' Reserve - Double IPA: After loading up on some of the heavier malt bombs on the festival floor, I decided to seek out a hoppy alternative for a much-needed change of pace. Grapevine's Double IPA ended up being the one I decided on, and it very well may have been my favorite beer of the night. Bright and bursting with citrus, it seemed to put the emphasis on hop flavor and aroma, rather than bitterness.

Also notable: Big Bend Balmorhea, Oasis Technicolor Motorhome, On Rotation Jalapeño Saison randallized with cucumber and lime, SanTan Grapefruit Shandy, Victory Kirsch Gose and Woodcreek Forefathers Belgian Strong Ale.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Nine North Texas beers honored at 2016 USBTC Winter Competition

Image credit: United States Beer
Tasting Championship.
The United States Beer Tasting Championship (USBTC) has released the list of winners from its 22nd annual Winter Competition. For this year's event, a total of 550 beers from 167 breweries were judged in 16 different categories.

Judging for the USBTC differs from other competitions in that entries are first split out by region, with a regional winner determined for each category. Top entries from six identified regions are then pitted head-to-head in order to determine a Grand Champion for each style. Entrants from North Texas compete alongside other beers in the Rockies/Southwest region, with beers from other parts of the country competing in one of five remaining regions: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic/Southwest, Midwest, California, and Pacific Northwest.

Among the winners, Four Swords from Deep Ellum Brewing Co. beat out 33 other beers to be named Grand Champion in the Belgian-Style Ale category. It and other entries from North Texas brewers took regional top honors as follows (click here for a complete list of winners):

Deep Ellum Brewing Company
  • Barrel Aged Oak Cliff Coffee Ale in the Spice Beer category.
  • Darkest Hour in the Imperial Stout category.
  • Four Swords in the Belgian-Style Ale category.
  • Bourbon Barrel Temptress in the Whiskey Barrel Aged Beer Category.
  • French Quarter Temptress in the Bean Beer category.
  • Freaky Deaky in the Belgian-Style Tripel category.
  • Great Scot! in the Scottish-Style Ale category.
  • Oktoberfest in the Vienna/Märzen Lager category.
  • Ugly Pug in the Dark Lager/Dunkel category.

Cheers and congratulations to all!

Four Corners signs distribution agreement with Andrews

Image courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Co. 

Ahead of its planned move to a new, larger facility in The Cedars on the south side of Dallas by 2017, Four Corners Brewing Co. has announced it has signed on with Andrews Distributing for the delivery of its portfolio of "all day ales."

Currently located in the La Bajada neighborhood of West Dallas, Four Corners was founded in 2012 by George Esquivel, Greg Leftwich and Steve Porcari after the three met during Brew Riot, a popular annual homebrewing competition that takes place in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas. The trio found that they shared not only an enthusiasm for craft beer, but also an intense desire to help build a better craft beer culture in North Texas. Thus, a vision of the brewery was born.

As for making the move to Andrews, Esquivel said the new partnership will allow the Four Corners team to experience great growth, while maintaining the unique and dynamic experience of being a local craft brewery.

"We're most excited about the opportunity to realize our brand potential," Esquivel said. "The partnership allows us to focus on our core strengths of brewing and marketing. We're confident in what makes Four Corners Brewing unique, and we know Andrews will help us share our brand experience with many more people."

Mike McGuire, president of Andrews, said his team looks forward to working with a local craft brewery that has great beers and stories to share with local beer lovers.

"Through the outstanding leadership of George, Greg and Steve, Four Corners has had tremendous success, and has created a very unique brand experience," McGuire said. "Four Corners has put their own spin on what it means to be from Dallas, and we are happy to partner with this genuine brand that speaks to local beer lovers."

According to a press release, Andrews will begin grocery distribution of packaged cans of Local Buzz, Heart O' Texas, Notorious O.A.T., El Chingón, El Super Bee, and limited release products on April 11, with plans to further support and grow Four Corners' presence in the future.