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.

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