Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Harvest and Franconia partner to support The Seed Project

Image Credits: Harvest Seasonal Kitchen, Franconia Brewing Co.

Earlier this year, Harvest Seasonal Kitchen announced its intention to begin brewing beer in house at its location in McKinney. Since then, the restaurant has introduced a few limited offerings, but an upcoming event will give patrons a chance to experience how Harvest's craft beer vision is coming into focus.

Working together with Dennis Wehrmann and his nearby Franconia Brewing Co., Harvest will host its first ever beer dinner on Thursday, September 21. The evening will begin with appetizers and opening remarks at Franconia's facility, with festivities shifting to Harvest after that for the presentation of a six-course menu.

"Dennis and I sat down when we obtained our brewpub license and talked about ways the two of us could work together," says Toby Thomason, general manager of Harvest. "I wanted to do a nice, charity event, but also something that was educational. What we decided to do was to take inspiration from what Dennis does well, and then shake things up to show people how differences are introduced."

In addition to a number of brews created exclusively by Harvest, the list of beers expected to be served at the dinner includes Franconia's popular Triple Dunkel, and its seasonal Oktoberfest. The featured fermentation, however, will be a beer created by way of a collaboration between the two companies.

"We brewed a spelt beer at Franconia with Dennis that uses local honey and base grain from TexMalt in Fort Worth," explains Thomason. "It's a beer that uses locally-sourced ingredients with some German heirloom wheat, so that kind of ties in our two concepts really well. The beer pays tribute to the brewing heritage Dennis brings, and also to our passion for local farmers and the local farming community - which is the whole reason we decided to get into brewing to begin with."

Franconia dabbled with spelt in a beer early in its history, but Wehrmann went with a different approach this time around.

"It's similar to the spelt beer we made before, except we changed the yeast and used grain from TexMalt," says Wehrmann. "And there's honey in it, which is something that wasn't in the original. That first spelt beer was brewed with a 100% German approach, but this one is done more in the American way."

Left: Honey Spelt is made with Ireks spelt malt and honey from N&P Farm & Dairy in Farmersville.
Right: Grain from TexMalt will be featured in all beers offered at the dinner, with locally-grown
Cascade hops providing the punch in a pale ale designed for the event (click to enlarge).

The result, Wehrmann believes, is a beer with a flavor profile that should fit right in with the coming shift in seasons.

"I think it tastes like fall," states Wehrmann. "The beer is a little sweet upfront with a hint of honey, but it finishes dry. It's really earthy, with a lot of really, ripe apples in the beginning. To me, the aroma is like that of a bunch of apples sitting in a wooden box at grandma's house."

Of course, the use of honey goes against Franconia's tradition of brewing to the Reinheitsgebot, which allows only for the use of water, hops, malt and yeast in the production of beer. But, that's one of the ways the differences Thomason wants to showcase come into play. Another way can be seen in a series of altbiers he's working on for the event.

"We did a base altbier where we tried to emulate some of the processes Dennis would use," says Thomason. "Then we brewed two more batches and did things to change them up. We added local blackberries to one, and aged another in a Balcones Baby Blue barrel. Neither gets too crazy, but the changes are just enough to show you what differences there can be in the beer."

Something else Harvest will highlight during the dinner is the progress its made towards a goal of producing a beer using all Texas ingredients.

"We've developed a couple of different yeast strains on our farm," says Thomason. "One was propagated from the blackberries used in the altbier, so we fermented that beer with a mix of the culture from the fruit and our brewer's yeast. The other strain comes from our wildflowers. We're using that one in a pale ale we're doing, which will also incorporate the first crop of Cascade hops yielded from the farm. So, really, the pale ale will be our first truly Texas beer."

As for the event itself, tickets are on sale now at a cost of $125 per person and quantities are extremely limited (click here to see the menu and purchase tickets). It should be noted, though, that all proceeds will be donated to charity.

"The entire ticket price is going to The Seed Project Foundation," says Thomason. "It's a company that we started to assist groups that promote sustainability and community. This year we're supporting Community Garden Kitchen, an organization that serves meals to food insecure families in Collin County."

In addition, the collaboration beer - simply called Honey Spelt, will remain available after the close of the dinner for a limited time at both Harvest and Rick's Chophouse (the two entities share the same ownership). Revenues from the sale of the beer will also benefit The Seed Project.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Turning Point turns the corner, lands location in Bedford

Image credit: Turning Point Beer.

Slightly over seven months after first introducing itself to the North Texas craft beer community, Turning Point Beer has signed a lease on a location in Bedford.

Getting to this point has been a battle for founders Joshua Davis, Jon Paul Goytia, Alex Knight and James Peery. Attempts to obtain financing to fund their venture were a challenge early on, which led the group to go on a barnstorming tour during the first quarter of 2017 as a way to attract investors. That effort proved fruitful, but then there were issues with the site of their chosen location. A contentious hearing in front of the Bedford City Council followed, but Turning Point persevered and is now armed with a plan of action.

"Literally for all of us, getting to this point has been the biggest obstacle we've ever tried to overcome," says Knight, who will serve as head brewer for the company. "Where we are now is not only incredibly unreal, but none of us were really sure this would ever happen."

Goytia echoes that statement, but is quick to point out that they believe the struggle has been worth it.

"The general consensus amongst the four of us is excitement," adds Goytia. "We all know that this is a big step forward to truly getting the chance to open our doors, but also to finally get the opportunity for DFW craft beer enthusiasts to try our beers."

Part of the plan going forward, of course, involves renovating and equipping the brewery's new home at 1307 Brown Trail. There, the group will be working with around 6000 square feet of usable area. Naturally, a portion of that will be set aside for a taproom, with the rest reserved for production. Prep work on the space has already begun, but there's still the matter of lining up contractors, planning the build-out, and taking delivery of equipment obtained from a defunct operation in San Antonio.

Artwork for the brewery's Pulp Series of East Coast hoppy beers (Turning Point Beer).

"We are starting with a two-vessel, 10-barrel brewhouse, five 20-barrel fermenters and a 20-barrel brite tank," says Goytia. "This set up is exactly the size we felt was ideal for us to be able to rotate beers often, while continuing to have fun with art of brewing."

Utilizing that system, Turning Point plans to launch with 8-10 beers.

"Our main focus will be our Pulp Series, which consists of Some Pulp NE-style Pale Ale, Extra Pulp NE-Style IPA and Heavy Pulp NE-style Double IPA," reveals Goytia. "We are still deciding on others, but Cup of Excellence imperial coffee stout should be one of the draft options for sure. Maybe the public can give us some great feedback to help with other beers we are deciding on!"

As of now, the goal is to have Turning Point open by the end of the year. Whether that happens will likely depend on construction schedules and the permitting process. Either way, once the company starts serving its products, what consumers should expect in terms of commitment can best be summed up with the following statement:

"Our Goal with Turning Point Beer from day one has been to contribute to the local craft beer scene we know and love, and that focus has never wavered," states Goytia. "We want to be known for some of the highest quality craft beer in this great state, as well as having an exciting fresh take on trending, unrepresented styles. We also want to exist as the forerunners of consistent innovation. At the end of the day, we want people to relate not only to our product, but also to us as four guys that love craft beer and love to talk about it. That is why Turning Point beer will exist."

Stay up to date on the brewery's progress by following Turning Point on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Session Beers now available from Brewers Publications

Image courtesy of Brewers Publications.

In her new book, Session Beers: Brewing for Flavor and Balance, author Jennifer Talley points out that session beers have been brewed for hundreds of years. In other words, session beers are not a trend. It may seem that way given the recent uptick in popularity of these types of beers, but even the term "session beer" pre-dates all of the modern mega beer madness. You know, back before the bugs, the barrels and all things high-ABV took hold of everyone's senses.

Of course, history lessons are just a jumping off point into a subject, not mention a beer type, that has much more depth than the "session beer" moniker might imply. Indeed, session beers aren't just about lower alcohol content. Things like bitterness, body, carbonation, finish and sweetness can also impact a beer's drinkability. It's up to the brewer to find the right balance of these and other factors in creating a beer that keeps you coming back for more.

And, Talley would know just how to do that, considering she spent over 20 years brewing in Utah, where state-imposed restrictions require beer to contain to less than 4% ABV. It's that experience Talley brings to bear in Session Beers, where she discusses not only the definition and design of session beers, but also how best to go about drinking them.

Naturally, there are an abundance of recipes as well (nearly half of the book is devoted to them), with breakdowns provided for both commercial (in the form of an outline) and five-gallon batches. Recipes appear for popular beers from the likes of Bell's, Firestone Walker, Stone and others. There's even one from Lone Star State, with guidelines given on how to make Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower Ale.

The recurring theme throughout, though, centers on the idea that a session beer should be a beer that encourages extended enjoyment. Talley explains that such a thing is good for the consumer in that it allows for more time with friends, while also helping in the area of responsible drinking. Not surprisingly, the increased consumption is good for business owners as well, and Talley takes the time to show how offering session beers to patrons can be a boost to the bottom line.

Session Beers is published by Brewers Publications (pre-release copy provided for review). It is available now, exclusively to members of the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association. Public sales of the book will begin on August 31.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lakewood now shipping Coconut Temptress

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

There's a new temptation on the North Texas scene, as Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland has added a new beer to its Seduction Series. Coconut Temptress is the fifth entry in the Seduction line, which features different takes on Lakewood's year-round imperial milk stout, The Temptress.

“We’re excited to release this new variant in the Seduction Series lineup,” says Wim Bens, founder of the brewery. “We’re always looking for ways to keep the Seduction Series fresh, while incorporating enticing flavors that people want."

The new beer is infused with the equivalent over five pounds of toasted coconut per barrel. The flavor addition blends with the base beer to provide a rich hint of coconut on top of the delectable, chocolate notes that Temptress fans love.

“In the brewery world, this seems to be the ‘Year of the Coconut,’ as many breweries are releasing coconut beers,” adds Bens. “We think our unique take on the style does the beer proud.”

Look for Coconut Temptress on tap and in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Texas Ale Project adds retailers, begins distribution to Tyler

Image credit: Texas Ale Project.

Now midway through its third year in business, Texas Ale Project of Dallas has announced a two-pronged expansion that includes supplying a variety of new retailers across the Lone Star State, as well as the delivery of its products to the City of Tyler.

According to a press release, the brewery's sales are up over 45% compared to last year, giving Texas Ale Project the capability to increase its distribution footprint to a total of 64 counties in Texas.

“We’re so pleased with the continued growth of our brand," says Kat Thompson, CEO of Texas Ale Project. "The initiative of retailers to expand their Texas craft beer offerings, paired with the high demand for our product, presented a unique opportunity for us as a local, family-owned business to work with well-established retailers. We’re honored to start developing these relationships so early on in our business, and I welcome them to our family!”

Texas Ale Project recently began shipments to Tom Thumb and Albertson's locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. With this latest move, though, fans of the brewery can expect to find its beers throughout Texas at retailers like Fresh by Brookshire's, Lowe's Markets and Doc's Liquors.

In addition, Sam's Club locations in North Texas, Wichita Falls and San Angelo are now carrying six-packs of Texas Ale Project's flagship beers, Fire Ant Funeral Amber Ale and 50 FT Jackrabbit IPA. Consumers can also look for a new variety case, featuring a mix of Fire Ant Funeral and one of the brewery's rotating brews, at the Costco on 8055 Churchill Way in Dallas.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Lakewood Lion's Share V now available in North Texas

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Lion's Share V, the fifth installment of Lakewood Brewing Co.'s annual anniversary beer, is now on sale throughout North Texas.

As has been the case with prior anniversary offerings, Lion's Share V is a unique beer with a recipe that differs from its predecessors. The 2017 edition of Lion's Share is billed as a full-bodied, Scottish-style brew that features a subtle peat smoke aroma, along with notes of sweet caramel, candied-fruit and honeycomb.

“This year’s release is a special one,” says Wim Bens, founder & president of Lakewood. “We wanted to honor year five with a beer that we’ve been talking about making for over three years now. As fans of all things malt and fermentation, a few of us around here are also big fans of whisky, especially Scotch whisky.”

In creating Lion's Share V, the brewery has taken the elements of a Scotch barrel and added that unique, smoky touch to this beer. Knowing that Scotch can be a bit overwhelming, Lakewood chose to age Lion’s Share V using a combination of barrels. Some of the barrels once housed bourbon, while others were used to age 26 year-old Speyside single malt Scotch.

“By blending the two together, we were able to create a harmonious marriage of flavors that work nicely together,” explains Bens. “It’s a great beer to enjoy now, or let mellow at cellar temps for months to come.”

Look for Lion's Share V on draft and in 22-ounce bottles. The beer is currently only available in the North Texas market.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Oak Highlands pairs with AiRS to support breast cancer survivors

Purchase Oak Highlands Oktoberfest and drink craft beer for a cause (Oak Highlands Brewery).

Oak Highlands Brewery of Dallas has announced a new partnership with the AiRS Foundation to help raise funds for breast cancer survivors.

The AiRS Foundation is a group dedicated to assisting women with the costs associated with restorative breast surgery, while connecting them with doctors that can help. Beginning August 1, and running through October 31, Oak Highlands will supplement this effort by donating 10% of all sales of its Oktoberfest beer to the cause.

“Oak Highlands Brewery gives 10% of the proceeds from the sales of its Oktoberfest beer to a different local breast cancer awareness charity every year," says Erica Connolly, marketing director at Oak Highlands. "Breast cancer has touched many lives, including those closely connected with Oak Highlands Brewery, and because the traditional Oktoberfest season and Breast Cancer Awareness Month loosely coincide, we thought it was a perfect opportunity to raise awareness and money to help find a cure."

Women who have undergone a mastectomy are often unaware of their options for reconstructive surgery, which is a key part of the physical and emotional healing for breast cancer survivors. It is estimated that 70% of women do not have options discussed with them or they are unable to pay for the surgery – that is where the AiRS Foundation steps in.

“We are so honored and excited that Oak Highlands Brewery has chosen the AiRS Foundation to support this October in timing with Breast Cancer Awareness Month," adds Morgan Hare, co-founder of the AiRS Foundation. "We have high hopes for our partnership with Oak Highlands Brewery, that together we will raise money and awareness for this important cause.”

The brewery will host an event in late September to kick-off the partnership, with 10% of the proceeds going to the AiRS Foundation. Plans are still being finalized, so be sure to follow Oak Highlands on social media (Facebook, Twitter) for the most up-to-date details.

Find out where to purchase Oak Highlands Oktoberfest at:

For more information about the AiRS Foundation, visit

Thursday, August 3, 2017

IPA Day: A North Eastern influence is invading North Texas

Left: Shazam (credit: Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery).
Center: Cambodian Tiger (credit: Malai Kitchen)
Right: Underdog V2.0 (credit: Small Brewpub)

The arrival of August means it's time once again for IPA Day - the international celebration of the India Pale Ale. Last year, in honor of the occasion, I put together a piece entitled "Yesterday and today with North Texas IPAs," which discussed the past and present with regards to craft beer's most popular style. This time around, though, I'll put the spotlight solely on where things stand today, and how things have changed in the local IPA arena over the course of the last 12 months.

To start, I'll go back to something I said in last year's article that still remains true. Nearly all North Texas brewing operations, whether they be new or well-established, have produced at least one IPA to this point. Holdouts from a year ago included 3 Nations, Armadillo Ale Works and Wild Acre, but as of the start of the summer, all three of those entities had entered the local IPA fray. Those aren't the only new IPAs on the market, though, since nearly every brewery that's opened in 2017 has 'hop'ped on the bandwagon as well (Denton County, Good Neighbor, Hemisphere, HopFusion, The Manhattan Project, Thirsty Bro).

The biggest change in the local IPA landscape, however, has been the market introduction of IPAs with an East Coast influence. Originating at breweries like The Alchemist, Trillium and Tree House in New England, these cloudy beers feature bright tropical fruit notes, a fuller body and minimal bitterness. The haze and hop tones have led some to say they look and taste like juice, which has resulted in the term “juicy” becoming synonymous with New England Style IPAs (NEIPAs).

Yet, many wonder if NEIPAs are really a style all their own. That is, as opposed to just being a hybrid of a single or double IPA. Naturally, opinions vary, but perhaps the best attempt to define the style (or at least lay down a foundation on which to build on) was offered by Gordon Strong in the May/June issue of Brew Your Own Magazine (click here to read the article). He's certainly the right man for the job, in light of his list of qualifications. In addition to being the technical editor and commercial calibration specialist for Zymurgy Magazine, Strong is also the president of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the principal author of the latest edition of the BJCP style guidelines.

Of course, guidelines are just...well, guidelines, and if we've learned anything about the craft beer industry over the years, it's that style guidelines are open to interpretation. And, when it comes to NEIPAs, the story is no different in North Texas. Just consider the range of NEIPAs that have hit the local market in the past year. It's a given that they've all been hoppy (to varying degrees), but some have been malty, while others have been bone dry. Bitterness has been all over the map, with beers having anywhere from a somewhat thick to an ultra-thin body.

What that says to me is, when Strong suggests that the NEIPA is an evolving style, he's not kidding. At least based on what has been served locally, what does or does not represent a NEIPA is still a matter of debate. In any case, judging by the style's popularity, it appears as if NEIPAs will continue to draw interest for some time to come.

As for what there is to drink along these lines in North Texas, a list of NE-inspired IPAs is given below. Keep in mind that many, if not all, of these beers are released on a periodic basis with extremely limited availability. My advice? Find one...drink one...and see what your tastebuds think of this developing style.

North Texas takes:
A Louisiana adaptation:
Of future focus (i.e. recipes to come from North Texas breweries in development):