Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Year in review: More beer, more regulation as the NTX craft beer beat goes on

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Another year and a lot more beer...that may be the best way to describe all that occurred in the North Texas craft beer scene during 2017. Of course, based on recent history, that's a sentiment that could have applied to any beer-centric year in review piece published since about 2011. Still, it feels like there is a lot more to digest this time around.

Among the items of interest for 2017, positive developments include the establishment of more new breweries and more new places to fill your growler. This year, though, there's an added bit of positivity to be found in some notable national recognition for local brewers. As for negatives, perhaps not surprisingly, most boil down to the seemingly never-ending tale of craft brewers coming out on the wrong end of legal wranglings.

Details on those topics and more are covered in what follows below, with a final segment at the end focusing on tastes and trends encountered during the year in beer.

North Texas on the National Stage
  • Zymurgy readers anoint Peticolas Brewing Co. as top Texas brewery for 2017: In the past, accolades such as this were reserved for a certain brewery in Austin, so it's nice to see someone finally realize that there are other breweries worth going to in Texas. Incidentally, Peticolas also nabbed its third medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2017, winning silver for It's Always Something. The win completes a sort of style trifecta for the brewery, since it has now won medals for English, Scottish and Belgian-style brews.
  • Internet gose crazy over Cup O' Beer: The Collective Brewing Project first brewed its ramen noodle gose, then called Wabi Sabi, in 2016. But it wasn't until this year, when the brewery bottled and branded it as Cup O' Beer, that the national press took notice. Including Food & Wine Magazine, articles declaring Cup O' Beer to be the envy of incoming college freshman everywhere were published by Beer Street Journal, Circa,, Men's JournalSimplemost, Tasting TableThrillistWide Open Eats and others.
  • Dallas drinks the Tears of its enemy: Noble Rey Brewing Co. got some east coast attention after crafting a gose called Eagle Tears in response to a Philadelphia brewery's beer-based declaration that Dallas Sucks. And, while the Dallas Cowboys haven't done much to prove Weyerbacher Brewing Co. wrong based on the teams play this year (especially against the Philadelphia Eagles), at least Noble Rey showed that DFW's smack talk game is strong.

Comings and Goings

If you read this section at the end of 2016, it had to leave you wondering what the future was going to look like in terms of the number of breweries operating in North Texas. Growth numbers had fallen for the first time in the six years that make up the current boom, which for some signaled the start of the long-predicted bursting of the craft beer bubble.

Yet, while there were three closures, a total of 12 new brewing companies opened in 2017. Granted, that number came up short of the 17 or more openings that were anticipated at the start of the year, but it's still an indication of a continuing upward trend. Either way, as things stand right now, North Texas is home to 62 total brewing operations (44 breweries, 18 brewpubs), with 58 unique brands of locally-brewed beer available in our market.

  • Breweries: Denton County Brewing Co. (Denton), Dirty Job Brewing (Mansfield), Good Neighbor Brews (Wylie), Hemisphere Brewing Co. (Rockwall), Hop & Sting Brewing Co. (Farmers Branch), Pegasus City Brewery (Dallas), Thirsty Bro Brewing Co. (Royse City), TKO Libations (Lewisville), Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co. (Plano).
  • Brewpubs: Landon Winery (Greenville), Malai Kitchen Fort Worth (third location), White Rock Ale House & Brewery (Dallas - kitchen only, brewing ops to come in 2018).

  • Breweries: Audacity Brew House (Denton), Backcountry Brewery (Rowlett).
  • Brewpubs: Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant (Dallas). 
Source: Individual research.
As for what's on the horizon for 2018, at least 16 new brewing entities have obtained locations around the Metroplex. Of those, around a dozen are currently in various stages of construction, though all 16 are hoping to host opening day parties in the coming year.

Future breweries:
  • Celestial Beerworks (Dallas), Deep Ellum Brewing Co. (Fort Worth), Navarro County Brewing Co. (Corsicana), New Main Brewing Co. (Pantego), Oak Cliff Brewing Co. (Dallas), Railport Brewing Co. (Waxahachie), Turning Point Beer (Bedford), Westlake Brewing Co. (Dallas).
Future brewpubs:
  • Cellarman's American Pub & Restaurant (Sherman), Cowtown Brewing Co. (Fort Worth), Flix Brewhouse (Little Elm), G Town Brewery (Greenville), Parker County Brewing Co. (Willow Park), Pathfinder Brewery (Hudson Oaks), Steam Theory Brewing Co. (Dallas), Union Bear Brewing Co. (Plano).

Expanding the Reach

It took five years for it to finally happen, but Peticolas Brewing Co. kicked off the year's brewery expansions by adding a taproom to its Dallas facility in January. From there, we witnessed the arrival of Malai Kitchen's third location in Fort Worth, not to mention the impressive upgrade undertaken by Four Corners Brewing Co., as it made a move to The Cedars in South Dallas.

On the restaurant and retail side of things, growler fill stations continue to sprout up in various locales. Two such spots, Guitars & Growlers in Richardson and 3 Flights Up in Little Elm, became the first to offer house-prepared food options with their fills. As for others, Local Pint and State Draft House both set up shop in Flower Mound, while Cork & Growler got operations underway in Frisco. Beyond that, 2017 also saw the opening of The Common Table's second location in Frisco, and the unveiling of  The Holy Grail Pub 2.0 (with more space) in Plano.

Looking ahead to 2018, Deep Ellum Brewing Co. has announced its intention to establish a satellite location in Fort Worth. Plans are also in the works for a permanent facility to house The Manhattan Project Beer Co. in West Dallas.

Legal Wranglings

By all accounts, the craft beer industry took a beating on the legislative front in 2017. Crowlers may be legal again (were they ever really illegal in the first place?), but attempts to secure off-premise sales for breweries were brushed aside by lawmakers once again (HB 2555/SB 1217), as were efforts to allow the direct shipping of beer to consumers (HB 2291) and a bid to legitimize homebrew competitions at licensed facilities (HB 3315).

Indeed, it's rather disheartening to realize that Texas is now the ONLY state in the Union that doesn't allow off-premise sales at a brewery. You may recall that Deep Ellum and Grapevine Craft Brewery joined forces to mount a legal challenge to this law back in late 2015. According to a report, however, a ruling has been pending since November of last year.

Getting back to the 2017 legislative session, craft brewers absorbed an additional gut punch in the form of HB 3287, a bill the Texas Craft Brewers Guild believes puts a "ceiling on success." Provisions in the measure stipulate that only breweries making less than 225,000 barrels per year may operate a taproom. Should a brewery go over that limit, taproom sales would then effectively be taxed by way of a direct payment to a distributor (in exchange for zero work done).

Oh, and that's not all. Just this month, the Texas Third Court of Appeals overturned a 2016 decision that gave brewery's control over the sale of their distribution rights. The suit, which brings the constitutionality of withholding such rights into question, was originally brought by Peticolas Brewing Co, Revolver Brewing and Live Oak Brewing Co. in 2014. As for the next step in the proceedings, the matter is now headed to the Texas Supreme Court.

The Year in Beer
  • Celis returns: It may not be a North Texas brand, but one of the more celebrated happenings of 2017 was the opening of the new Celis Brewery in Austin. Pierre Celis founded the original company in 1992, but Austin's first craft brewery would eventually close at the end of 2000. Now, more than 16 years later, a name revered by many of the state's early craft brewers is back in business.
  • Style trends: While sour beers and barrel-aged offerings continue to be popular, perhaps the most sought after style in today's market is the New England IPA. A few local breweries have taken a stab at the style (Malai Kitchen, Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery, Small Brewpub, Braindead,  Chimera Brewing Co., Manhattan Project and others), with additional offerings beginning to come in from outside the state (Roughtail, Great Raft). Future breweries in North Texas intend to get on the action as well, with hazy IPAs playing a major role in the planned portfolios of Celestial Beerworks and Turning Point Beer.
  • North Texas award winnersClick here to review all of the award-winning beers from 2017. Coverage includes results from the Great American Beer Festival, U.S. Open Beer Championship, North American Beer Awards, San Diego International Beer Competition Los Angeles International Beer Competition, United States Beer Tasting Championship and Best of Craft Beer Awards.
  • The 2017 list of Beer In Big D's preferred pours (i.e. new-to-market beers some blogger found to be particularly enjoyable): 3 Nations Sticky Nuts Imperial Milk Stout, 903 Barrel-Aged Birthday Sasquatch, Bell's Black Note Stout, Braindead Memory Hole, Collective Brewing Project Peach Folk, 2016 Deschutes The Abyss Brandy, Great Raft Grace & Grit, Lagunitas High West-ified Imperial Coffee Stout, Lakewood Cuvée de Vélo, Prairie Artisan Ales Bourbon Paradise, Rabbit Hole Midnight Snark, Saint Arnold Bishop's Barrel No. 18, Small Brewpub Underdog IPA v2.0.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - December 26, 2017 edition

Christmas has come and gone, as has the winter solstice...the latter in evidence based on two of the beers covered in this, the latest (and last of 2017) edition of the Craft Beer Conspectus.


See Star Wars, drink C3P-Ale

Created to coincide with the release of the film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland has introduced C3P-Ale (6.37% ABV). The beer, a collaboration between the brewery and the historic Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, is an American-style pale ale that features three popular "C" hops - Columbus, Citra and Cascade. Seek it out at select growler-fill stations and craft beer-friendly cinemas around the Metroplex.

Mix things up with Martin House

The slogan "two great tastes that taste great together" may be the property of a popular candy, but it would seem to apply to a couple of beers recently put out by Martin House Brewing Co. of Fort Worth. At least, that seems to be the case behind Cookies (a cookie dough stout) and Cream (a cream ale), two beers that are said to taste great on their own or when combined. Now available at retail, the pair is sold in mixed four-packs of 12-ounce cans.

Winter is here in the form of a beer

In honor of the winter solstice, Noble Rey Brewing Co. of Dallas has unveiled Mother Night. For a little background, Yule was a 12-day winter solstice celebration that marked the return of the sun. On the first night of Yule, otherwise known as "mother's night," Nordic Pagans awaited the birth of the Sun God, Baldur, son of Odin and the goddess Frigg. As for the beer, Mother Night is a Belgian-style dark saison brewed with black currants and plum puree. It's the first beer ever to be bottled at Noble Rey, and one that can only be obtained at the brewery.

Legal Draft serves up Black Letter Law

Originally offered as a limited draft-only release over the summer, Legal Draft Beer Co. of Arlington has canned Black Letter Law (4.7% ABV). Although billed as a black pilsner, the beer's label declares Black Letter Law to be a traditional German-style schwarzbier that delivers "light and smooth drinkability in every glass." Pick it up in six-packs of 12-ounce cans.

A new Hour is upon us

Darkest Hour (11% ABV, 60 IBU) is a beer that's been around for a number of years, and it too (like Mother Night mentioned above) is one that marks the long night of the winter solstice. This time, though, Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas has aged Darkest Hour in port wine barrels, with the end result described as a beer featuring notes of dark fruit, tobacco, coconut and chocolate. On draft now in the brewery's taproom, Darkest Hour will also be sold in 22-ounce bottles.

Ring in the Season at Braindead

The holiday season is also tamale season, and in recognition of that tamale truth, Braindead Brewing of Dallas has crafted an inspired variation of its standard Export Stout. Said to be festive AF, Tamale Season (6.6% ABV, 43 IBU) is brewed with cacao nibs, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans and a mix of guajillo and chipotle chili peppers.

Also from Braindead, the brewpub is pouring A Friend of Rye (10.3% ABV, 38 IBU), a Belgian-style tripel brewed with rye (obviously) and a dash of palm sugar.

Image credits (top to bottom): Lakewood Brewing Co., Martin House Brewing Co., Noble Rey Brewing Co., Choice Beverage of McKinney, Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Braindead Brewing.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Dirty Job marks official grand opening in Mansfield

Dirty Job is the first known brewery to operate in Mansfield (Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

It's been a full five months since Dirty Job Brewing started serving beer in Mansfield, but up until now the company had yet to host an official grand opening. That changed this past weekend, with an event featuring the requisite attractions of food, live music and a lineup of some of the area's newest local beer.

Founded by Derek and Lashawn Hubenak, along with Justin Watson, the business is the first of its kind in Mansfield. Established in the city's Historic Downtown district, Dirty Job's brewery and taproom occupies a 4000 square foot space originally built in 1895.

Inside that space, the setup itself is straightforward. Upfront, the taproom is outfitted with a handful of televisions and around a dozen tabletops, while house brews are served from behind a small bar towards the back. There, patrons can choose from beer pouring from as many as 20 taps, all but one of which was active during Dirty Job's debut event.

Agave, amaretto, coconut, cucumber and vanilla are just some of the flavorings used in Dirty Job's recipes (Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

On that note, it's apparent that the brewery intends to explore the full spectrum of craft beer's flavor wheel with its small-batch system. Of the 19 beers on the board last Saturday, all but four included some sort of additive element. Together with a popular maple pecan porter called The Short Stack, examples included No Big Dill (cucumber wheat), Raspberry Beret (fruited hefeweizen), Killa Vanilla (oatmeal stout) and Agave Davida (blueberry agave wheat).

Surveying the styles forming the base of those brews, selections at Dirty Job cover a fairly standard range. A variety of American, German and Belgian-inspired wheat beers are on the menu, as are an assortment of IPAs and stouts. Most would appear to be designed for wide appeal, with tempered flavor components and a light-to-medium body being the norm.

Of course, you'll want to find a place to check out the brewery's offerings in order to test that appeal. Availability, however, isn't plentiful due to Dirty Job's limited distribution. That means, at least for now, a taproom visit is the best bet for anyone looking to try the brewery's beer. Therefore, those so inclined will need to head south and make their way to Mansfield.

Dirty Job Brewing (Web, Facebook, Twitter)
117 N. Main St.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Then and now: Comparing Plano's newest brewery to the one that started it all

Unlawful Assembly is the third brewing entity to exist in Plano (Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Nearly 30 years after the last production brewery operated in the city, Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co. (UABC) has opened its doors in Plano. The brewery exists on the third floor of Legacy Food Hall, in the new Legacy West development.

Indeed, while breweries have popped up in all corners of the Metroplex, Plano has seemed like a forgotten city. Other than an offshoot of the Gordon Biersch brewpub chain (just across the Dallas North Tollway from UABC, in the Shops at Legacy), Plano has been bereft of a dedicated brewing operation since Texas' first ever microbrewery, Reinheitsgebot Brewing Co. (affectionately known as Reinbo), closed in 1989.

Of course, things are a lot different now than they were in the 1980s. While UABC's setup screams modern-day industrial facility, getting Reinbo up and running meant scavenging and/or inventing the equipment used to make its beer.

For example, UABC's system consists of a newly-minted 30-barrel brewhouse, along with 21 large-scale tanks situated for use in the cellar and production space.

Unlawful Assembly's three-vessel, 30-barrel brewhouse and an impressive lineup of tanks can be
viewed on the second and third floors of Legacy Food Hall (Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

And Reinbo? Its founders equipped their brewery by converting used dairy equipment for things like a lauter tun and fermentation vessels, making a grain grinder from scratch, and retrofitting a household water heater to act as a hot liquor tank.

At Reinbo, dairy tanks served as fermentation vessels (left), grain grinders were made by hand (middle) and
water heaters posed as hot liquor tanks (right). Photos courtesy of Russ Klisch, president of Lakefront Brewery in Wisconsin.

Regarding the types of beer made by each company, as the name suggests, Reinbo's products followed the German Purity Law - i.e. the brewing ingredients consisted of only malt, hops, water and yeast. The brewery's two main beers were a pale lager called Collin County Pure Gold, and a dark lager called Collin County Black Gold.

As for UABC, Plano's newest brewery has already gone on record as saying that it "won't be afraid to break a few brewing rules." In other words, it won't be guided by such limitations. One of UABC's beers proves that to some extent, considering Idol Time, a passion fruit pineapple wheat, was among the brewery's opening day pours.

Other beers on tap at UABC, at least for now, come together to form a fairly standard craft beer lineup. A brown ale, a pale, an amber lager and a witbier make up the list of what's to be had currently, but further experimentation is promised. Should that come to pass, Plano residents can look forward to a more diverse range of offerings, especially compared to what was being made in the city more than 30 years ago.

Either way, it's interesting to see how the industry has changed since the times of the first microbrewery to exist in the city, the region and the state. Reinbo may be a thing of the past, but the efforts of those behind it laid the early groundwork that allows breweries like Unlawful Assembly to be a part of the future.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Texas Ale Project to release The Caucasian 2017

Image courtesy of Texas Ale Project.

Next week, Texas Ale Project of Dallas will release the 2017 edition of its popular white Russian imperial stout, The Caucasian.

First arriving on the scene in 2015, The Caucasian (9.0% ABV, 75 IBU) is brewed with vanilla beans and cold brewed coffee, prior to being aged on toasted American oak. The vanilla beans used in the beer are sourced from the Bourbon Island of Madagascar, while the coffee is a selection chosen in collaboration with a Dallas-based roasting company.

“Once again, we partnered with Michael Wyatt at Full City Rooster to choose the perfect beans to enhance the flavors and bring the right acidity and sweetness to the malts of this year’s stout," says Brent Thompson, co-founder of Texas Ale Project. "After several tastings, we decided on a bean from the Palo Blanco Estate in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala.”

This year's vintage of The Caucasian will debut during an event at Texas Ale Project's facility in the Design District on Tuesday, December 12 from 6-10 p.m. The evening will also feature tappings of The Caucasian 2016, The Caucasian 2015 and The Caucasian Bourbon Barrel-Aged 2016, not to mention a special food pairing and glassware presentation.

“To add a decadent tasting element to the release, we partnered with local chocolatier, Chocolate Secrets, to create a chocolate-infused truffle in the shape of a 'Dude' mustache for customers to pair with the beer,” reveals Kat Thompson, CEO of Texas Ale Project. “We also selected a unique and playful glass this year that reflects White Russian cocktail-style barware to commemorate this release.”

In addition, Texas Ale Project has obtained nine bourbon barrels from Knob Creek, one of Jim Beam's small-batch brands, for use in aging a portion of the 2017 release. As for when the finished beer will be available, The Caucasian is expected to age for around 10 months, so look for the barrel-aged version to appear in the fall of next year.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Oak Highlands enlists Jack Daniel's for 2017 BBA Chump Change

Image courtesy of Oak Highlands Brewery.

Initially teased in a Facebook post over the summer, Oak Highlands Brewery has partnered with Jack Daniel's Tennessee distillery for the 2017 release of Bourbon Barrel Aged Chump Change (11.3% ABV, 28 IBU).

Led by Kevin Sanders, a.k.a. "The Barrel Man," representatives from Jack Daniel's hand-delivered 34 spent barrels to Oak Highlands in late June, after which those casks were filled with the brewery's seasonal imperial black saison. Now, six months later, those barrels are being emptied in preparation for the beer's taproom debut, something set to occur on Saturday, December 16.

Rolling barrels into the brewhouse with "The Barrel Man" (Oak Highlands Brewery).

In addition, Bourbon Barrel Aged Chump Change will be packaged for the first time for sale in four-packs of 12-ounce cans.

"Previously, all of our barrel-aged releases have been draft only," says Brad Mall, co-founder of Oak Highlands. "In working with Jack Daniel's on this year's release of Bourbon Barrel Chump Change, we decided to broaden the reach and also offer it in four-pack cans."

Bourbon Barrel Aged Chump Change is the first barrel-aged brew
Oak Highlands has packaged for retail sale (Oak Highlands Brewery).

Quantities of the packaged beer will be very limited, with only 275 cases to be available. Consumers can expect the beer to start showing up at both retail and draft accounts during the week of December 18.

A number of joint launch events with Jack Daniel's are also being planned, according to Mall. Details on those festivities will follow in the coming weeks, so be sure to keep up with the brewery's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter) for the most up-to-date details.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - December 6, 2017 edition

In the past, the arrival of the holiday season has meant a slowdown on the craft beer newsfront, but that's apparently not the case this year. As seen below, a lot has happened in the three weeks since the last Conspectus, with a big distribution announcement heading up a new list of items that includes the usual roundup of recently released beers, along with updates on the status on four North Texas breweries in development.


Collective joins up with Shelton Brothers

Shelton Brothers, Inc., a Massachusetts-based import/export firm, has added The Collective Brewing Project to its portfolio. According to a blog post on Collective's website, the Fort Worth brewery will work with Shelton Brothers to deliver its beer to festivals and events it plans to attend in the coming year.

Snap up the latest release from Wild Acre

Now in stores, Snap'd is the latest beer to emerge from Wild Acre Brewing Co. of Fort Worth. Billed as a gingerbread strong ale, the seasonal offering packs a fair amount of punch, with an ABV of nearly 8%. Look for it in six-packs of 12-ounce cans.

Nick the newest Full Grown variety on tap at Tupps

Tupps Brewery of McKinney has unveiled its newest Full Grown Man variety in the form of Full Grown Nick (12.1% ABV). Brewed with holiday spices, Full Grown Nick is the third seasonal treatment of Full Grown Man Imperial Stout, following brethren brews Full Grown Hombre and Full Grown Jack. Find it in four-packs of 12-ounce cans.

Deep Ellum flies its Freak Flag

Freak Flag (7.8% ABV, 14 IBU), the initial offering in Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s Barrelhouse line, has been released in 500mL bottles. The beer is a sour red ale that's spent 18 months in red wine barrels, and it's the first fully barrel-fermented brew to produced by the company. Freak Flag's release also kicks off the brewery's Solera program, an initiative that involves the fractional blending of different vintages over time to create a beer that gets older every time you drink it.

Also from Deep Ellum, a new IPA variety pack is available at retail, containing Deep Ellum IPA, Dreamcrusher, Easy Peasy IPA and the brewery's new White IPA.

Future brewery blurbs

The TABC has approved the licenses for New Main Brewing Co. of Pantego and Parker County Brewing Co. of Willow Park. Both entities are currently under construction with early 2018 target dates.

After many years in development, there's finally a light at the end of the tunnel for Steam Theory Brewing Co. of Dallas. Construction on the future brewpub's site in Trinity Groves began in November, with the latest update projecting an opening to occur as early as April of next year.

The Corsicana City Council has cleared the way for work to begin on Navarro County Brewing Co., after a variance was approved for a proposed site on December 1. Set to be the city's first brewery, Navarro County Brewing will be located at 321 W. 6th Ave. in Corsicana.

Image credits (top to bottom): Collective Brewing Project, Wild Acre Brewing Co., Tupps Brewery, Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Parker County Brewing Co., New Main Brewing Co., Steam Theory Brewing Co., Navarro County Brewing Co.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Oak Cliff Brewing offering 99 years of free beer

Image courtesy of Oak Cliff Brewing Co.

Once the doors open at Oak Cliff Brewing Co. in Dallas, its founders will have worked to establish a new brewery in one of Dallas' oldest neighborhoods. And while their families have called the area home since the 1950s, Oak Cliff Brewing isn't just about producing a hometown brand of beer. It's about making new memories and creating a gathering place for the surrounding community.

As for where the scene will be set, the brewery will be part of a co-working village called Tyler Station. The development is located at 1300 S. Polk St., in a historic building that once housed the Dixie Wax Paper Co. Built in the 1920s, the 110,000 square foot structure is being re-purposed to support a variety of business types. Oak Cliff Brewing will occupy 14,000 square feet of that space, with the remaining real estate being open to retail, creative and small-scale manufacturing outfits willing to join the collective.

Looking to aid in the revitalization effort, Oak Cliff Brewing has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Idiegogo. According to co-founder Joel Denton, himself a third-generation Oak Cliff native, the bulk of the money raised through the campaign will go directly towards the restoration of the building. The campaign has a flexible goal of $60,000, and it will fund regardless of the final tally, but the amount of money brought in will determine how well the group is able to realize its vision at the outset.

"The success of the campaign will somewhat impact the finish of the taproom," says Denton. "We're prepared to open no matter what, but reaching our goal will enable us to do all the things we want to in the space."

Potential supporters will notice that the perks offered by the campaign don't follow the usual recipe. There aren't any stickers, pint glasses or other swag-like items to be had. Instead, the company has designed a set of rewards that offer contributors a more meaningful buy-in.

"We're doing this for the beer, to bring people together, and to share it with them...and that's the focus of the campaign," explains Denton. "We wanted to offer perks that drive that vision, that incentivize people to come to Oak Cliff, and that hopefully provide some real value in return for the contribution."

One perk sure to get people's attention is the offer of "99 Years of Free Beer." Essentially a free beer for life promotion, Denton was emboldened to run with the idea after seeing it offered by others in the industry, most recently by Saint Arnold Brewing Co. of Houston.

"It's sort of a reference to the old '99 bottles of beer on the wall' song," says Denton. "Initially, we were going to do presales of taproom pints, with the biggest quantity allowed being 99 pints. But, since we aren't licensed yet, we can't actually sell beer. The TABC is fine with me giving it away, so I decided to just go with free beer."

Details on how to get free beer for 99 years, as well as more on the story behind Oak Cliff Brewing Co., can be found by clicking here to visit the campaign's website. The fundraising drive will go on for one month, after which the founders will hit the ground running in hopes of getting the brewery and taproom open by March 2018.

Stay up-to-date with developments at the brewery by following Oak Cliff Brewing Co. on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tupps signs distribution deal with Ben E. Keith

Image credit: Tupps Brewery.

Tupps Brewery of McKinney has entered into an agreement with Ben E. Keith Beverages for the distribution of its products in and around North Texas.

"To be successful in the beer business you have to, first and foremost, make great beer," says Chase Lewis, vice president of sales at Tupps. "Second, you have to present yourself well to the market. Last, but very far from least, you have to manage the distribution of your product very well. It's an incredibly difficult and important part of this industry, and Ben E. Keith has been distributing beer in North Texas with excellence for decades. We couldn't be happier to be partnering with such a strong and supportive company."

The brewery had self-distributed its beers since opening in May 2015, but growth on the order of 400% in total volume over the first year signaled a need to explore other options. Lewis believes the partnership will help propel Tupps to the next level in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as it will allow the company focus on beer, branding and building stronger relationships in the market. 

"Tupps has done an extraordinary job brewing a portfolio of great beers, while establishing their brands and brewery in Texas, and we are excited and honored to be chosen as their distributor," says Steve Olkewicz, business development manager at Ben E. Keith. "The Tupps approach to business, marketing, innovation and high quality beer provides us with a great foundation for a successful partnership. We look forward to the opportunity to have the Tupps brands in our portfolio, and are eager to continue the expansion of their brands in our markets."

According to a press release, Ben E. Keith will begin delivering Tupps products to accounts on December 1. Counties covered by the agreement include Archer, Baylor, Bell, Bosque, Bowie, Camp, Cass, Clay, Collin, Cooke, Coryell, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Fannin, Franklin, Grayson, Hill, Hood, Hopkins, Hunt, Jack, Johnson, Kaufman, Lamar, McLennan, Milam, Montague, Morris, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rains, Red River, Rockwall, Somervell, Tarrant, Titus, Van Zandt, Wichita, Wilbarger, Wise, Wood and Young.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - November 14, 2017 edition

In this, the first edition of the Conspectus since the close of NTX Beer Week, new beers and a brewpub-to-be make an appearance, as does a bit of distro news from out of Fort Worth. Additionally, one Dallas brewery provides consumers with an early look at its 2018 lineup.


The beers of Beer Week

In case you missed it, a number of beers were released during the aforementioned NTX Beer Week. The list of new brews includes 2017 Braindead Hammer of the Gods and Bent de Garde (to-go bottles, sold at the brewery), 2017 Community Barrel-Aged Legion (retail four-packs), Hemisphere Black Sacrament (draft, brewery only), Lakewood Cuvée de Vélo (on-premise bottles, sold at the brewery), Noble Rey Eagle Tears (to-go cans, sold at the brewery) and Texas Ale Project Blood IPA (draft accounts).

Small Brewpub debuts first bottled beer

For the first time in its three-year history, Small Brewpub of Dallas has bottled one of its beers for take home sales. Lord of the Beers is a concoction inspired by Lord of the Pies, an apple pie made by Small Brewpub's fellow Oak Cliff establishment, Emporium Pies. Fermented with spiced granny smith apples provided by Emporium, Lord of the Beers is an English strong ale that's been aged in rye whiskey barrels.

White Rock Alehouse & Brewery obtains TABC approval

White Rock Alehouse & Brewery is now an officially licensed entity, after its permit was approved last week by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). The brewpub has yet to announce an opening date, but it will be situated in a retail development at 7331 Gaston Ave. in Dallas (that's just across the road from On Rotation). White Rock owners Dave Kirk and Greg Nixon have hired Blake Morrison, formerly of Cedar Creek Brewery and Whistle Post Brewing Co., to head up brewing operations.

Collective headed to Cali

The Collective Brewing Project of Fort Worth has announced its intent to begin distribution to California. To that end, the company has signed on with Lime Ventures, a wholesaler based in Concord. In a blog posted to the brewery's website, co-founder and California native, Ryan Deyo, discusses how the move will now allow him to send his beers to family and friends back home. Initial shipments to The Golden State are expected to occur in December.

Deep Ellum unveils 2018 production schedule

Looking ahead to next year, Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas has published its production schedule for 2018. In addition to the return of Oak Cliff Coffee Ale and the release of Play Date in cans, the lineup includes new barrel-aged offerings (Bellman's Bride, Vinous Ado), plus the first beers in the Deep Ellum Barrelhouse series (Farmhouse Ale, Sour Red Ale). More on those beers, and others, can be found by expanding the image to the right, where you can see the complete list of expected releases.

Shannon offers up something Mór

Shannon Brewing Co. of Keller has launched Mór IPA, a beer whose name is derived from the Irish word for "big." Along those lines, the beer is said to be "a big celebration of aromatic hops," with hop varieties such as Warrior, Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo being used in its creation. Mór IPA is a year-round beer, set to be available on draft and in six-packs of 12-ounce cans.

Image credits (top to bottom): NTX Beer Week, Small Brewpub, White Rock Alehouse & Brewery, The Collective Brewing Project, Deep Ellum Brewing Co. Shannon Brewing Co.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hop & Sting begins production in Farmers Branch

Images courtesy of Hop & Sting Brewing Co.

Looking to get the company's first commercial beer into the hands of consumers by the end of the month, Hop & Sting Brewing Co. has begun production, with the inaugural brew day in the books as of November 3.

As previously reported, Hop & Sting founders Brian Burton and Jon Powell will launch their brand while operating under an alternating proprietorship agreement with 3 Nations Brewing Co. in Farmers Branch. The move allows Hop & Sting to brew at an established facility while continuing to look for a permanent location for its future brewpub.

“It has been a long road starting Hop and Sting Brewing Co.," says Burton. "We still have a long way to go to get our own facility, but we are excited to get brewing now.”
Galactic Haze IPA features a mix of Ariana, Ekuanot and Mosaic hops.
The first beer to emerge from the fermenters will be a white IPA called Galactic Haze (7.2% ABV, 45 IBU). Beyond that, consumers can expect Hop & Sting's initial line of offerings to include a witbier, infused with lavender and sage, and a Belgian-style dubbel, brewed with ancho and chipotle chili peppers.

“Our main focus is on the beer and making it the best we know how," adds Powell. "Sharing a facility allows us to focus on our product and our customers, the way craft brewing is suppose to be!”

Regarding distribution, the company's beers will be available on draft and in cans. It should be noted, however, that due to certain regulations, Hop & Sting-branded beers will not be served in 3 Nations' taproom. Despite that, visitors to the brewery can still get a taste of what Hop & Sting is all about, by way of beers brewed in collaboration with 3 Nations that are expected to be tapped on a regular basis.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Texas Ale Project adding more West Texas markets

Image credit: Texas Ale Project.

Continuing on a course of expansion that began earlier this year, Texas Ale Project of Dallas has signed with Reed Beverage Inc. for the delivery of its products to a variety of new West Texas markets.

“We are excited to introduce Texas Ale Project to our customers and to work with a family-owned company who takes pride in what they do,” says Reed's Vice President of Craft, Wine and Liquor, Damion Williams. “Reed Beverage is a proud supporter of Texas craft breweries and looks forward to a long-lasting relationship with Texas Ale Project.”

According to a press release, the two companies believe Reed's quest to provide a culture of creativity and innovation for its customers is something that aligns well with Texas Ale Project's dedication to handcrafting thoughtfully-brewed, well-balanced beer for Texans.

 “We’re eager to partner with the Reed family to bring Fire Ant Funeral Amber Ale and 50Ft. Jackrabbit IPA, among others, into the greater West Texas region, and to offer craft beer lovers the beer experience we’ve been bringing to the Dallas-Fort Worth area for 3 years now,” says Texas Ale Project’s Founder and CEO, Kat Thompson. “Since we first opened our doors in the Dallas Design District three years ago, we wanted to expand the availability of our beers by partnering with top notch distributors throughout Texas. We’re excited to continue fulfilling that goal now with Reed Beverage distributing our beers in areas of West Texas."

Reed is expected to serve markets in and around Abilene and Amarillo (where the company is based), with an overall distribution footprint to include Briscoe, Haskell and Wheeler Counties.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Shannon Brewing regains D-FW distribution rights

Image credit: Shannon Brewing Co.

Shannon Brewing Co. (SBC) of Keller has announced the re-acquisition of its distribution rights in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

In March of 2016, SBC signed an agreement with Andrews Distributing for the delivery of its products to the local market. However, the brewery's desire to expand its portfolio to include a range of "new and fun beers," coupled with the speed at which these products were being introduced, presented a challenge. As a result, the two companies have mutually decided to end their relationship, effective November 1.

 “Andrews is great at what they do," says Shannon Carter, president of SBC. "They helped introduce the brewery to several accounts and did a good job of marketing our brand. At the end of the day, though, our brewery is growing in a way that doesn’t take advantage of Andrews’ scale and efficiencies. We simply want to be in control of our own brand and product introduction schedule."

According to a press release, SBC's products may now be ordered for delivery directly from the brewery, which means the company's entire portfolio can be carried by any licensed retailer in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

For more information or to order beer from SBC, visit the Wholesale Orders section of the brewery's website.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Audacity Brew House closing in Denton

Image credit: Audacity Brew House.

As first reported in a story published by the Denton Record-Chronicle, Audacity Brew House of Denton will close its doors on November 11.

Doug Smith and Scott Lindsay founded the brewery, which was the first business of its kind to exist within the Denton city limits. After its grand opening in October 2014, Audacity went on to make news in March 2016 after partnering with Texas Motor Speedway on a signature beer for the track called No Limits Checkered Past.

In addition to its year-round and seasonal beers, the brewery produced the Abbey Series, a line of Belgian-style brews that sold at retail in limited 22-ounce bottles. Audacity was also known for its popular Evil Cream Soda, a soda-spiced beer designed "to create a familiar childhood flavor with an evil kick."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - October 25, 2017 edition

With the start of North Texas Beer Week looming on the horizon, it makes sense to slip in another edition of the Craft Beer Conspectus. This time around, coverage includes news on three new brewing operations, and two local brews now available in cans.


Landon Winery now offering house beers
 Image credit: Landon Winery. 

Sliding in somewhat under the radar, Landon Winery of Greenville began serving its own brand of beer in August. The beers, which up to now have included a blonde ale, a bock and a kölsch, are a collaborative effort between Landon and Good Neighbor Brews of Wylie. Wort for each beer is prepped by the brewers at Good Neighbor prior to being passed on to the winery, where fermentation takes place on site.

   Image credit: Martin House Brewing Co. 
A new hefe from Martin House

Martin House Brewing Co. launched its latest beer, Martin House Hefeweizen, during an event at its Fort Worth brewery on Thursday. Release notes indicate the beer is brewed in the traditional German style, with flavors of banana, clove and a hint of bubblegum sweetness leading the way. Look for it in six-packs of 12-ounce cans for a limited time.

Wild Acre cans Texas Blonde Ale
Image credit: Wild Acre Brewing Co.

Wild Acre Brewing Co. of Fort Worth has packaged its Texas Blonde Ale in cans, with six-packs rolling out to retail locations this week. The beer, which debuted over the summer as a draft offering, is said to feature a tropical essence brought on by the use of Azacca hops.

Hop & Sting receives TABC license

Image credit: Hop & Sting Brewing Co.
After receiving approval from the TABC on Tuesday, Hop & Sting Brewing Co. is now officially licensed. For those unaware, Hop & Sting has entered into an alternating proprietorship agreement with 3 Nations Brewing Co., which means both entities will operate out of the same facility in Farmers Branch. As for when consumers can expect the first production brews, founders Brian Burton and Jon Powell suggested a late-November time frame as a best-guess estimate.

Image credit: TKO Libations.
Production begins at TKO Libations

According to co-founder Ty Sefton, production is underway at TKO Libations in Lewisville. The company's first beer, a batch of blueberry blonde, was brewed Tuesday night, and a breakfast stout is next on the agenda. An official grand opening is still a few weeks away, but TKO is now up-an-running on a soft basis during weekends. Check the brewery's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter) for details on that, as well as information on what guest beers the brewery is currently featuring on its tapwall.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rahr & Sons taps Jack Daniel's for 2017 BBAWW release

Image courtesy of
Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.
It's a year of firsts for one of Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.'s most popular beers, as the Fort Worth brewery readies the 2017 release of Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer (BBAWW).

Due next month, this year's batch of BBAWW was aged 100% in Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey barrels. In the past, Rahr & Sons has blended the aged beer with a fresh batch of Winter Warmer (the base beer) to fine tune the flavor, but the 2017 edition of BBAWW will be the first to emerge in unblended form.

On top of that, Winter Warmer was brewed to a higher strength ahead of the aging process in order to withstand the alcohol present in the barrels. As a result, consumers should expect BBAWW to have a stronger overall flavor profile.

“Jack Daniel’s has a storied history as the first registered distillery in the country,” says Rahr & Sons owner Fritz Rahr. “We are thrilled to work with such a recognizable brand and utilize their whiskey barrels to create our delicious, bold Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer.”

According to a press release, Rahr & Sons partnered with Jack Daniel’s as part of the distillery's barrel program, in which whiskey barrels are supplied to select independent brewers to utilize in making craft beers. As part of the program, Jack Daniel’s produced a video about Rahr & Sons’ process of brewing BBAWW to promote the beer’s launch (click here to view).

Also a first, BBAWW will roll out to retailers in 4-packs of 12-oz cans. Look for it, as well as Angry Santa (which will also be canned for the first time), to hit shelves in November.

Four Corners debuts new digs in The Cedars

The Stables, which encompasses The Taproom and an event space at Four Corners, sits
across from the historic Ambassador Hotel (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Prior to a ceremonial ribbon cutting attended by a trio of Dallas city councilmen on Wednesday, George Esquivel joked that he and fellow founders, Greg Leftwich and Steve Porcari, decided to do something a little different to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Four Corners Brewing Co.

"Most breweries typically pull out all of their really cool beers for an anniversary," said Esquivel. "We thought we'd open a whole new brewery instead!"

Located in The Cedars district of South Dallas, Four Corners' new facility is an impressive addition to the neighborhood. The property itself is a two-acre spot that sits across from the historic Ambassador Hotel. On it exists a number of buildings that have a history all their own.

"Several of the buildings were part of the Conley-Lott Nichols Machinery Co., which was active back in the late 1930s, early 1940s," explained Leftwich. "They were somewhat of a competitor to Caterpillar, selling road equipment and big, heavy machinery. The parking lot was a retail yard where you could come and look at the equipment, while our main building served as the repair shop."

Inside the now revamped brewery building, Four Corners has installed a four-vessel, 50-barrel brewhouse, which outsizes the 30-barrel system the company employed while operating at its previous location in Trinity Groves.

"The new brewhouse triples our capacity," said Leftwich. "It has many bells and whistles, but what the brewers are most excited about is the automated grain-handling system. It basically means they'll no longer have to lug grain back and forth around the brewery. And with the tanks, the biggest additions are the 200-barrel fermenters (up from the 100-barrel fermenters used at Trinity Groves)."

Left: A rooster still roosts on one side of the brewery building, this time as part of an artful window installation.
Center: The Taproom at Four Corners will feature views of a yet-to-be-installed small-batch brewing system.
Right: Brewing operations are underway, with the seasonal La Lechuza set to roll out to retail.
(Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Plans are also in place to bring in a new canning line to double production output. That and the brewhouse upgrades are necessary to supply an increased distribution footprint, which the brewery hopes will reach all major markets in Texas by January of 2018.

As for where visitors to the brewery can expect to spend their time, another structure on the site is known as The Stables. Built around 1915, it was originally used as the stables for the Ambassador Hotel. Today, though, it houses The Taproom and a multi-faceted event space that will be made available for rent.

"The taproom in the back of the building will be what's open to the public most of the time," said Porcari. "We'll open up the event space when we need a little more room, like if we're showing a sporting event or celebrating other special occasions."

Still to come, the centerpiece of The Stables will be a 7-barrel brewing system set to be situated between the taproom and event area. Dubbed the "Brew Lab," it will allow Four Corners to brew one-of-a-kind, taproom-only beers separately from its production line.

Food will be served on site as well, with small bites and shareable plates being the order of the day.

"Chad Houser from Café Momentum is a very good friend of ours and he designed a menu for our taproom that we are confident will not be replicated anywhere else," said Leftwich. "It's very savory and complementary of the beer."

The public's first chance to check out the new digs comes this weekend, with a three-day grand opening celebration planned at the brewery. In addition to taproom hours beginning on Friday, the festivities will culminate with Four Corners' annual Dia de los Puercos event on Sunday. For details on that and more, check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A darkness is emerging from the Rabbit Hole

Image credit: Rabbit Hole Brewing.

This week, Rabbit Hole Brewing of Justin will release Midnight Snark (10.6% ABV), a beer that should fit the bill if you're feeling a need to embrace the dark side.

Originally appearing on occasion as a brewery-only offering, this will be the first time Midnight Snark as been available commercially. The beer is an export stout that's spent more than four months aging in bourbon barrels sourced from Witherspoon Distillery of Lewisville. However, don't see "Snark" and assume that Midnight Snark is simply a barrel-aged version of Dark Snark, another of Rabbit Hole's seasonal offerings.

According to co-founder Laron Cheek, the recipe behind Midnight Snark is slightly different than that of its sibling brew. For one thing, there's no fruit addition in Midnight Snark, a beer that also features a heftier grain bill, not to mention a change in hops. Rabbit Hole used Phoenix hops for this creation, a variety which should complement the base beer well. That's because chocolate and molasses are among the hop's characteristic flavors.

On that note, Midnight Snark is said to be a smooth, roasty brew that features elements of caramel, coffee, cocoa and vanilla. Naturally, bourbon is player as well, adding what the brewery describes as a "bold spirit finish" to the beer. That, Rabbit Hole says, makes Midnight Snark the sort of brew one seeks to help ward off the approaching autumn chill.

As for when it will hit the streets, launch parties for Midnight Snark are scheduled to occur at various locales on Thursday, October 19 (see list below). It will also be on tap at the brewery beginning Friday, October 20, where you can also pick up bottles to take home. Rabbit Hole will release a total of 660 22-ounce bombers of Midnight Snark, with the first 240 to be sold at the brewery. Remaining bottles will appear at select retail locations in North Texas (and Austin) starting next week.

Look for Midnight Snark at these upcoming events:

Thursday, October 19
  • Dallas Craft Co., The Colony - 6 p.m.
  • Dallas Craft Co., Keller - 6 p.m.
  • Drunken Donkey, Lewisville - 6 p.m.
  • State Draft House, Flower Mound - 6 p.m.
  • World of Beer, Arlington - 6 p.m.
Friday, October 20
  • Rabbit Hole Brewing, Justin - 5 p.m. (bottle and draft release)
Saturday, October 21
  • Rabbit Hole Brewing, Justin - 12 p.m. (bottle and draft release)
Tuesday, October 24
  • Kool Keg, Arlington - 6 p.m.
Thursday, October 26
  • LUCK, Dallas - 6 p.m.