Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Year in review: Craft beer means business

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Sitting down to pen this year's review of all things beer in North Texas, the phrase "another verse, same as the first," kept coming to mind. Indeed, a common thread in each annual summary published in this space over the years has been the continuing upward trend in local industry growth. And 2018 was no different, with over a dozen brewery openings, few closures, and even more new players ready to enter the fray.

Of course, the advancement of the industry means more competition for all who do business and, as such, a good portion of this year's rundown covers maneuvers breweries have made in order to better position themselves in the market. Beyond that, notable national recognition is covered, as are industry insights, trending styles and a list of 2018's preferred pours.

Regarding what's missing, there's no update on legal proceedings. The Texas Legislature only meets in odd years, and there has been no movement on items pending in the courts. The industry isn't resting on its laurels, however, as preparations are underway for the 2019 legislative session. In particular, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild launched CraftPAC, a political action committee created to champion legal reforms. Naturally, a key focus of the effort will be to secure to-go sales for production breweries.

The Business of Beer, Part 1: Marketing and Expansion

Surveying business dealings in the local industry, two area operations rebranded during 2018. In Fort Worth, Chimera Brewing Co. was sold and re-named to Fort Brewery & Pizza, with the change bringing with it a further focus on pizza and beer. Cobra Brewing Co. also underwent a revamp in Lewisville, adopting a classic rock theme under the new moniker, Old Town Brewhouse.

In other marketing efforts, Noble Rey Brewing Co. made a move to establish brand presence overseas by inking a deal with Neodif, a beverage retailer in France. The agreement gave Neodif rights to produce, package and sell Noble Rey's beers in locations throughout Europe.

Elsewhere, Armadillo Ale Works reached the finish line in its longtime quest to establish a permanent location in Denton. Debuting in May, the brewery's taproom includes an on-site coffee shop, making it a morning, noon and night destination for Denton denizens.

As for future projects, The Manhattan Project Beer Co. hopes to open its own location in Dallas early next year. Further out, a taproom constructed out of repurposed shipping containers is in the works at Franconia Brewing Co. of McKinney, while 3 Nations Brewing Co. intends to move its entire operation from Farmers Branch to Downtown Carrollton. On top of all that, the following satellite locations are also coming soon:

The Business of Beer, Part 2: Craft Consolidation

On the topic of buyouts, "big beer" steered clear of taking on additional interests locally this year, but there were still a number of equity transactions that took place in 2018.

The first of these happened in June, when upstart Hop & Sting Brewing Co. acquired assets of Grapevine Craft Brewery. Referred to now as Hop & Sting at Grapevine Craft Brewery, the entity produces recipes developed under both brand names.

June also brought news that Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas had joined the CANarchy Craft Beer Collective. This coming after a 2016 agreement to sell a stake to Storied Craft Breweries didn't work out as planned. Now, with the new partnership, Deep Ellum's name joins Oskar Blue Brewery, Cigar City Brewing, Perrin Brewing Co., Wasatch Brewery, Squatters Craft Beers and Three Weavers Brewing Co. on  CANarchy's membership roster.

These developments were followed in July by the acquisition of Four Corners Brewing Co. by Constellation Brands. Owners of names like Corona and Modelo, Constellation targeted Four Corners based on the belief that its bicultural identity offers an opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of Hispanic products in the marketplace.

Comings and Goings

Based on current projections, North Texas could soon be home to nearly 100 brewing companies. A total of 73 operations (49 breweries, 24 brewpubs) are now in business locally, and there are at least another 18 in various stages of development. Should a few more throw their hats into the ring, the area could reach the century mark within the next two years.

As for the comings and goings of 2018, 14 openings occurred, while two firms ceased operation, and one brand was absorbed by another.

  • Breweries: Celestial Beerworks (Dallas), Edgewise Eight Brewing Co. (Weatherford), New Main Brewing Co. (Pantego), Oak Cliff Brewing Co. (Dallas), Outfit Brewing (Dallas), Railport Brewing Co. (Waxahachie), Turning Point Beer (Bedford).
  • Brewpubs: Cellarman's Pub & Brewery (Sherman, added brewing operations), Cowtown Brewing Co. (Fort Worth), Flix Brewhouse (Little Elm), Old Texas Brewing Co. (Burleson, added brewing operations), Parker County Brewing Co. (Willow Park), Steam Theory Brewing Co. (Dallas), Union Bear Brewing Co. (Plano).
  • Breweries: Whistle Post Brewing Co. (Pilot Point).
  • Brewpubs: Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant (Plano).
Acquired brands:
  • Breweries: Grapevine Craft Brewery by Hop & Sting Brewing Co. (Grapevine counted as closure in chart below).

Source: Individual research.
Future breweries:
  • Bluffview Growler (Dallas, adding brewing operations), Brutal Beerworks (North Richland Hills), False Idol Brewing (North Richland Hills), Krootz Brewing Co. (Gainesville), Siren Rock Brewing Co. (Rockwall), Soul Fire Brewing Co. (Roanoke), Three Nails Brewery (Roanoke), Toasty Bros. (Grapevine, joint proprietorship), Westlake Brewing Co. (Dallas), 
Future brewpubs:
  • Beard Science at Truck Yard (The Colony), By the Horns Brewing Co. (Mansfield), Flix Brewhouse (Mansfield), Funky Picnic Brewery & Café (Fort Worth), G Town Brewery (Greenville), Pathfinder Brewery (Hudson Oaks), Vector Brewing (Dallas), Whiskey Hollow Distillery & Brewery (Muenster), Windmills Brew Pub (The Colony).

North Texas on the National Stage
  • Fort Worth named top 10 beer city: In January, the Travel Channel included the City of Fort Worth in its roundup of "The New Top 10 Beer Cities." The list called attention to smaller cities in big beer states making a mark on today's industry.
  • Shannon Brewing makes television debut: Shannon Brewing Co. of Keller appeared on an August episode of The History Channel series, Blood Money. Focused on family businesses, the program puts the spotlight on children trying to earn the right to carry on the family enterprise.
  • News media peeps Collective/Lone Star collab: The Collective Brewing Project of Fort Worth again garnered attention for the use of an unconventional ingredient in one of its beers. Last year, stories centered on Collective's ramen noodle gose, Cup O' Beer, but this time around all eyes were on a sour beer called Peep this Collab. The result of a partnership with growler shop, Lone Star Taps & Caps, the concoction was brewed with 30 boxes of Marshmallow Peeps.

The Year in Beer
  • Dallas-Fort Worth short on core consumers: Insights on demographics released in June estimate only 4% of Dallas-Fort Worth residents are regular craft beer drinkers (defined as those who had consumed a craft beer in the last 30 days). That number falls well below the national average of 7.3%.
  • The juice is officially loose: Based on two events in 2018, it seems safe to say that juicy and hazy IPAs have cemented their place in the craft beer lexicon. The Brewers Association got the ball rolling when it released official guidelines for these types of beers in March. Then, it was revealed in August that one variation, "Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale," had claimed the title of most-entered category at the Great American Beer Festival.
  • Style trends: The love affair with all things IPA continued in 2018 with the introduction of the "brut" style, a bone-dry beer approaching zero gravity with respect to residual sugars. In other recipes, cannabis cropped up in a few brews, as did edible glitter, though one wonders if the latter movement will result in any lasting luster.
  • North Texas award winnersClick here to review all of the award-winning beers from 2018. Coverage includes results from the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup, Brussels Beer Challenge, U.S. Open Beer Championship, San Diego International Beer Competition, Los Angeles International Beer Competition and Best of Craft Beer Awards.
  • The 2018 list of Beer in Big D's preferred pours (i.e. new-to-market beers some blogger found to be particularly enjoyable): 3 Nations Devout Crème Brûlée, 903 Bordeaux Barrel-Aged Sasquatch Opus One Barrels, Celestial Ad Reinhardt, Cigar City Marshal Zhukov's, Lakewood Lion's Share VI, Martin House Old Mose, Oak Cliff Sombre, Real Ale Mysterium Verum Cease & Desisyphus, Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 18, Tupps DDH IPA Series 2, Turning Point Chicken & Gravy.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - December 26, 2018 edition

Closing the book on 2018 beer blurbs, this edition of the Conspectus features news on new brands, an expansion, and the promise of a new barrel-aged series to come from the area's oldest craft brewery.


Edgewise Eight launches brand in Weatherford

Becoming the newest brewing operation in North Texas, Edgewise Eight Brewing of Weatherford debuted its products during a launch event at Antebellum Ale House in early December. According to co-founder Clif Ellis, production is current being done on a small system at the company's Weatherford location, with the short-term goal being to supply beer to popular bars in the city.

3 Nations signs lease on new location in Carrollton

This month, 3 Nations Brewing Co. unveiled plans for a new taproom and brewery to be built in the City of Carrollton. The company's future home will occupy an existing structure raised in 1950 that once served as a grain storage shed. Construction on the space is set to begin in January, with the hope that a grand opening will occur by early summer 2019.

Rahr & Sons to tap new barrel-aged series in 2019

A new barrel-aged series is in the works at Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth, at least based on a teaser video posted recently on the company's Facebook page. The R&S 'Berǝl Series will debut in January with Black Sappath, a beer brewed with chocolate and blackberries prior to being aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels for six months.

Vector Brewing secures spot in Lake Highlands

Residents of Northeast Dallas will soon be able to plot a course to a new neighborhood brewery, now that Vector Brewing has entered into an agreement to take over a space in Lake Highlands. The company will be established at 9850 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 405, in the community's Lakeridge development.

Image credits (top-to-bottom): Edgewise Eight Brewing, 3 Nations Brewing Co., Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Vector Brewing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Beer shares top billing at Flix Brewhouse Frisco/Little Elm

Flix Brewhouse's first North Texas "cinema brewery" is located at
1660 FM 423 in Little Elm (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

The Round Rock-based company, Flix Brewhouse, made its first foray into North Texas earlier this year with the opening of an outpost in Little Elm. And, while some may cast an eye towards the business and assume it's mostly about movies, those who visit soon learn it's a place where first-run flicks share top billing with beer.

One reason for that is the investment put into the brewing side, at least considering how the brewpub's equipment array extends beyond what's installed at many smaller startups. A seven-barrel brewhouse anchors a front corner of the space, while fermentation and serving tanks overlook the lobby and bar from higher level perches on both sides.

It's not just for show, either, since head brewer Derrick Rima and assistant Dennis Diltz are tasked with manning the tanks daily. Still, visitors to the "cinema brewery" are more likely to be movie fans, which is something they hope to change.

"Right now, people coming in are primarily here to see a movie," says Rima. "But, we're working to build up the beer program to attract more of the craft beer crowd."

On that subject, it would be easy to consider Flix's status as a chain and assume its portfolio is limited to corporate recipes. Yet, Rima and Diltz have the freedom to create local flavors on a regular basis. This allows them to add variety, while also providing an outlet for putting their own signature on the menu.

"All locations start with the same six beers, and we typically put on a corporate seasonal once a month," says Rima. "Beyond that, we're able to release our own specialty beers, and we've also started a barrel program."

In this case, adding a personal touch often involves collaborating with friends in the local industry. Up to now, Flix has joined forces with other local breweries, a gypsy brewer, and members of a beer-centric nonprofit organization that focuses on educational opportunities for women.

These efforts have resulted in the beers below, all of which follow protocol at Flix in that they draw inspiration from a movie playing on the big screen.

  • Cartel Candy - a strawberry limeade Berliner weisse inspired by the film, Peppermint.
    Collaborator: Barrett Tillman of Black Man Brewing.
  • Dementor's Kiss - a bananas foster brown inspired by the film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
    Collaborator: Noble Rey Brewing Co. of Dallas.
  • Symbiote - a Belgian imperial stout with oats and brown sugar inspired by the film, Venom.
    Collaborator: BrainDead Brewing of Dallas.
  • Pink Boots 8 - a Belgian blonde with tropical teas inspired by the film, Oceans 8.
    Collaborator: Pink Boots Society - North Texas Chapter.

Most recently, Rima and Diltz got together with Seth Morgan and the crew at Denton County Brewing Co. to make London Fog IPA. Brewed to celebrate the release of Peter Jackson's latest film, Mortal Engines, the beer is a dry-hopped hazy IPA infused with tea that's about as refreshing as they come.

The point is, beer plays a key role in the overall experience at Flix. In fact, the taproom is worth a visit in and of itself, especially if you're a member of the craft beer demographic. Either way, know that quality beers with a unique twist are always in play, regardless of whether you're there to see a movie, grab a beer, or both.

Note: London Fog IPA was brewed at Denton County Brewing Co.'s facility, and is currently on tap there. It will appear at Flix Brewhouse Frisco/Little Elm once label approval is obtained from the TABC.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Local breweries pitching in for Camp Fire relief

Image credit: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

In honor of Giving Tuesday, multiple North Texas breweries are manning the kettles as we speak, all of them working to brew a beer to help communities devastated by Camp Fire in Butte County, California.

It's part of a collaborative endeavor put together by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Chico, California. Earlier this month, the company announced the upcoming release of Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, a beer created as a way to raise funds for those affected by the tragedy. In addition, Sierra Nevada pledged that 100% of proceeds from the sale of Resilience will be donated to the Camp Fire Relief Fund.

To expand the effort, Sierra Nevada asked brewers across the country to assist as well, with over 1000 breweries now having answered the call. As for who has signed on from around North Texas, known participants are listed below.

Backstory Brewery, Sulphur Springs
BrainDead Brewing, Dallas
Community Beer Co., Dallas
Cowtown Brewing Co., Fort Worth
Denton County Brewing Co., Denton
Dirty Job Brewing, Mansfield
Legal Draft Beer Co., Arlington
Martin House Brewing Co., Fort Worth
New Main Brewing Co., Pantego
Rabbit Hole Brewing, Justin
Steam Theory Brewing Co., Dallas
The Collective Brewing Project, Fort Worth
Tupps Brewery, McKinney
Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co., Plano
Wild Acre Brewing Co., Fort Worth

Sierra Nevada is providing the recipe for the beer to these (and likely other) area breweries, and in some cases ingredients have been donated from national and local suppliers (i.e. Texas Brewing, Inc. of Haltom City).

Keep tabs on social media to find out when Resilience Butte County Proud IPA will be on tap at these locales in the coming weeks, and be sure to stop in for a pint to aid the cause. You can also donate directly, with instructions on how to do so found by clicking here.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Deep Ellum, Rahr & Sons honored at 2018 Brussels Beer Challenge

Image credit: BeComev.

Two areas breweries were recently recognized at the 2018 Brussels Beer Challenge in Belgium.

A relatively new event, the Brussels Beer Challenge was originally organized in 2012. It's the first professional beer competition to be held in Belgium, with the event rotating among different host cities each year. For 2018, the city of Mechelen was the setting for the international competition, where beers were evaluated by 92 judges from 28 countries.

Award-winning beers from North Texas breweries are summarized below, while a complete list of medalists can be found by clicking here.

  • Gold for Local Legend in the Flavoured Beer: Sweet/Milk Stout category.
  • Gold for Pumpkin Ale in the Flavoured Beer: Pumpkin Ale category.
  • Silver for Oktoberfest in the Lager: German-Style Märzen category.

Cheers and congratulations to Deep Ellum and Rahr & Sons!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - November 15, 2018 edition

The list of subjects covered in this edition of the Conspectus includes an international award, one brewery's charitable activities and the introduction of two new names to the North Texas scene.


The Regulator wins silver at European Beer Star competition

Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth earned a silver medal for The Regulator in the German-Style Heller Doppelbock category at the 2018 European Beer Star competition. The international event, which drew 2300 entries from 51 countries, focuses on beer styles of European origin. Click here for a complete list of winners.

Nine Band partners with Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, opens Oklahoma site

Earlier this month, Nine Band Brewing Co. of Allen launched a new partnership with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (CKFF). Centered around the brewery's easy-drinking honey ale, The Badge Honey Blonde, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the beer will go to CKFF for the benefit of military and first responder families.

In other Nine Band news, the company is now brewing at its location inside the Osage Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Toasty Bros. set to bring its brand of beer to market

The Denton-based company, Toasty Bros., will soon begin operations after entering into a joint proprietorship with Hop & Sting at Grapevine Craft Brewery. Founder Brian "Toast" Tiensvold intends to brew small batches for sale at accounts in Denton, with the long-term goal of opening a taproom and brewery in the city. One of his beers, Maison Saison, was featured as part of Barley & Board's Home Brewers League program.

A TTB license has been approved for Toasty Bros., while a TABC application is pending.

Beard Science receives TABC approval

An entity to be known as Beard Science has obtained a brewpub license from the TABC. The venture is one of two in the works from Brain Storm Shelter, the company behind Twisted Root Burger Co. and Truck Yard. The brewpub is part of Truck Yard's upcoming site in The Colony, located in the Grandscape development at 5949-5959 Grove Ln. (east of Nebraska Furniture Mart off Destination Dr.).

Brain Storm Shelter is also working on By The Horns Brewing Co., which is going into The Backyard project in Mansfield.

Image credits (top to bottom): Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Nine Band Brewing Co., Toast Bros., Brain Storm Shelter.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Breweries tapping into the retail dollar

Taproom crowds are becoming commonplace in North Texas (Armadillo Ale Works).

Atmosphere, unique offerings and fresh beer from the source - those are some of the reasons beer drinkers often frequent taprooms at production breweries around North Texas.

Yet, these popular destinations didn't exist at the dawn of the current craft beer boom. Consumers were able to purchase beer for on-site consumption at a brewpub (restaurants selling beer brewed on the premises), but operating a taproom wasn't an option for the first wave of new breweries to open in 2011, because they weren't allowed under Texas law.

That ban was lifted in 2013, and in the time since, taprooms have become commonplace. Most established breweries in Dallas-Fort Worth have added taproom space, while startups tend to have them in the plan from day one. It's come to the point that all but a few of the over 45 production breweries in the region now employ a taproom.

So, what factors have contributed to the rise of taprooms in North Texas?

One catalyst is the ongoing shift in market dynamics. Breweries continue to open at a breakneck pace, which means there are more brands of beer being brought to market. The problem is, wholesale and retail partners can't keep up. There are only so many taps on the wall at the local bar, and there is only so much room for stock at distribution and retail.

Nevertheless, breweries need outlets to sell their beer, and a taproom offers a solution when met with limited access to placements in the marketplace.

Taprooms are also good for business. The ability to sell beer at retail, rather than wholesale, prices has a discernible impact on the bottom line. This is especially important for small breweries and companies just starting out. In fact, numbers from the Brewers Association show the growth rate for smaller breweries with taprooms is nearly twice that of those depending solely on distribution.

At the same time, running a taproom can complicate relationships with wholesalers and retailers who view them as direct competition.

Stakeholder concerns range from being undercut on price, to being shut out on special releases that would attract more customers. In those cases, it's on brewery owners to share the wealth and to be aware of how their in-house price points compare to those of partners.

From a wider view, opponents say taprooms take business away from bars and restaurants. However, data suggests visits to a taproom aren't mutually exclusive. Based on results from a 2017 NCGA OPUS survey, brewery visits didn't replace trips to the bar for a majority of consumers.

On top of that, additional data says taprooms may work boost the bottom lines of partners as well. According to a Nielsen poll conducted by Harris in 2018, over half of regular craft drinkers (defined as those who consumed craft beer on a weekly basis) said they were likely to purchase more beer at other on-premise venues after visiting a brewery.

At the very least, taprooms represent a place to engage and educate consumers, where they can try new beers and make a direct connection with the people behind the products. If the experience is a positive one, consumers are more likely to seek out a brewery's products the next time they are out on the town. And in that scenario, a taproom's existence benefits everyone involved.

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the November 1, 2018 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

How local breweries compete in a crowded market

Data taken from production reports published by the Brewers Association. Breweries quoting estimates or choosing not 
to report may cause actual breakdown of small/mid-size/large breweries to vary slightly compared to what is shown (click to enlarge).

At no time in history has there been as many breweries operating in the U.S. as there are today. Over 6000 are currently on record, and with still more in planning, an already crowded market promises to get even more challenging.

Competition is fierce and breweries are experiencing slower growth. Just brewing good beer isn't enough to get by, which brings about the question of how best to navigate the now choppy brewing waters.

Locally, the playing field consists of over 70 brewing companies (based on openings in 2018 not accounted for in the graphic above). Operations vary in size and scope, ranging from small-batch nanobreweries selling primarily on site, to large production breweries supporting multi-state distribution channels.

With that in mind, founders from breweries big and small were asked what they are doing to stay competitive in the current business environment. Not surprisingly, strategies differ slightly for each, but the common thread among them is the belief that quality is job one.

Erin Rahr, co-founder and president of Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth (large brewery).

  • "Focusing on quality is going to be key for breweries to survive. There is a lot of beer out there now and people are becoming more educated every day on what tastes good and bad in the market."

    "At Rahr & Sons, we focus on the quality of our products and don't look to much into what others are doing. We have chosen to be very innovative with our lab, and have invested in three employees that work on quality control daily. This has also helped us keep consistency while expanding to other states."

Brad Mall, co-founder of Oak Highlands Brewery, Dallas (mid-size brewery).

  • "Obviously, quality is the number one aspect in staying competitive. Consistency is also key. I see those as one in the same - consistency is part of quality."

    "As a small, self-distributed brewery, we try to distinguish ourselves with exceptional customer service. It's important our accounts know they can get an immediate response from the brewery and they have the ability to speak directly with the decision makers. Because we self-distribute, we are able to be nimble and do things other distributed breweries may not be able to do. This enhances our relationship with accounts and helps us stand out."

Yianni Arestis, co-founder and CEO of Armadillo Ale Works, Denton (mid-size brewery).

  • "One important aspect is maintaining the highest quality, and that's why we made sure to have a QA/QC lab from day one at our facility."

    "We focus on creating truly unique beers and utilizing new and innovative ingredients. For Brunch Money, we called it an 'Imperial Golden Stout,' and now that's a style name you see from other breweries across the country. Another example would be brewing with mesquite beans or purple corn nectar - to our knowledge we were the first to use either ingredient on a commercial scale.”

    “Our goal is to have beers that are both fully flavored and accessible to all, and we feel we are able to accomplish that and stand out with our innovative brewing methods."

Jacob Sloan, co-founder of On Rotation, Dallas (small brewery).

  • "We insist on producing a high-quality product with the finest ingredients, but we are just as obsessed with offering the best craft beer drinking experience in the market. We have the ability to control the entire experience of consuming our beers, and we consider all parts of that process -- the taproom, the branding, the staff, and the glass -- as part of the product itself."

    "As a small-batch brewery, our quick-churning brew schedule allows us to branch out and take chances on more obscure, expensive, or experimental styles that may not seem viable to the larger breweries. We're able to introduce new beers on a weekly basis, and we are forever evolving the beers we make based on what is on the market and what people enjoy. That keeps us current and keeps things exciting for us and our customers in a way that allows us to stay competitive and relevant no matter how many breweries enter the market."

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the November 1, 2018 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Brewers weigh in on the next phase of hazy IPAs

Alex Knight of Turning Point and Matt Reynolds of Celestial Beerworks brewing a batch
of #juicebros, a collaborative double IPA with blueberries released in July (Turning Point Beer).

The juice is loose, not just in North Texas, but across the country as juicy and hazy IPAs are making a play for the title of craft beer's most popular style.

Earlier this year, the Brewers Association added three "juicy or hazy" styles to its competition guidelines, and one of those ended up being the most-entered category at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival. "Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale" wrested the top spot from "American-Style India Pale Ale," ending a reign that began in 2002.

Once considered a fad by some, hazy and juicy beers now enjoy a level of legitimacy with the establishment of formal descriptions and the quick ascendancy to the top of the competition ranks. The question now: Where do brewers go from here in terms of the evolution of these highly sought-after styles?

According to Matt Reynolds, owner and head brewer at Celestial Beerworks in Dallas, a first step may be to spend time improving on what's already out there.

"I feel like consistency and quality are something that lacks with these styles," says Reynolds. "We hope to dial in our system and show that these beers can be delicate and well-executed like some of the other popular styles out there."

Optimizing aspects of production is also a focus for Alex Knight, co-founder and director of brewing operations at Turning Point Beer of Bedford.

"We're working to get better extraction and higher volume, as well as trying to get more juicy characteristics into our beers, says Knight. "Another thing is seeing how to push the limits with more hops, while maybe increasing the malt and making more balanced beers."

From there, the sky is seemingly the limit, especially considering the open-ended nature of the newly-minted definitions. Baseline characteristics only call for beers to be hazy, with low bitterness, a softer texture and high hop content. Hops can be of any variety, which opens the door to a direction Reynolds is looking to explore.

"We plan to focus heavily on new or underutilized hop varieties to showcase different flavor profiles than what typically is associated with these types of beers," says Reynolds. "I love Australian hops, so we will be using those a lot in our juicy/hazy recipes."

Knight believes mash-ups of existing styles are also a possibility, with brewers bringing together elements from different types of beers to form a new breed of IPA.

"One thing that pops into my mind is the brut IPA," says Knight. "We've been tinkering with ideas that combine the dryness and drinkability of a brut IPA with the adjuncts and high hopping rates from juicy IPAs."

Of course, brewers have already expanded on the category by adding lactose to create milkshake IPAs, while oat and wheat cream IPAs are also being made at breweries around the country. As for what is destined to be the next big thing in juicy and hazy styles, that revelation is likely to come from brewers choosing to delve into uncharted territory.

Here in North Texas, breweries like Celestial and Turning Point are already operating in that realm, working to stay a step ahead as the haze craze enters a new phase.

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the November 1, 2018 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Cannabis crops up in craft brews

Matt Dixon of Do214 and Tommy Miller of Noble Rey
hard at work during brew day for Certified Dank (Dallas Brew Scene).

In the continuing quest for fresh and novel flavor ideas, the cannabis plant has emerged as a source of inspiration, with brewers exploring the use of hemp and other offshoots in the creation of new beers. It's a category that is trending, and it's growing in popularity.

Shop local shelves and you'll find two hemp beers for sale produced by out-of-state brewers. TheHemperor is a product of Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co., while Hemp Gose comes from Goodwood Brewing Co. of Kentucky. Both are made with hemp hearts, which is what's left of the hemp seed after it's shelled. Unlike hemp leaves and flowers, which are prohibited, hemp hearts are legal and may be used as an ingredient in beer. Hemp hearts do not contain the psychoactive components, cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

As for what's in the works locally, the entertainment website, Do214, and Noble Rey Brewing Co. of Dallas have come together to collaborate on Certified Dank, a hemp beer debuting during NTX Beer Week. Also brewed with hemp hearts, Certified Dank follows the footsteps of New Belgium's beer, which paved the way for these types of products

"Luckily, New Belgium released The Hemperor and did the hard work for us to be able to use hemp hearts," says Tommy Miller, head brewer at Noble Rey. "Now, you can use hemp hearts in beer without special licensing in all states besides Kansas."

Some might hear "hemp" and assume its dank and herbal elements influenced Certified Dank's name, but hemp hearts provide different flavor qualities compared to other aspects of the plant brewers aren't able to use.

"The hemp hearts add nutty and bready flavors to beer," explains Miller. "Unfortunately, we cannot use hemp terpenes, the key flavor attributes of the hemp plant that deliver citrus, pine and dank flavors. We also cannot use hemp flowers, which would give the beer a really dank nose and flavor. Instead, we will be utilizing hops such as Simcoe, Comet and El Dorado to give the beer its dankness."

In addition to hops and hemp, Certified Dank features four types of grain - oat, white wheat, pilsner and carapils malt. The mix of ingredients results in a finished beer Miller describes as big-bodied with a burst of dank hop aromas and tropical fruit flavors.

"Certified Dank will be hazy with a load of dry-hopping, and strong with an ABV of 8.4%," says Miller. "Some people are calling this type of beer a 'West Coast Hazy IPA,' but it's what I like to call a 'New Dankland IPA.' Either way, it's going to be a fun beer to drink!"

NTX Beer Week launch parties for Certified Dank will occur at The Common Table - Uptown on Tuesday, November 6, and at Noble Rey's taproom on Friday, November 9.

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the November 1, 2018 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Cedar Creek, LUCK join forces for new brewpub in Farmers Branch

In a move that brings together two well-known members of the North Texas craft beer industry, Cedar Creek Brewery of Seven Points and Chef-Engineered of Dallas have announced a joint venture to open Cedar Creek Brewhouse & Eatery at Mustang Station Restaurant & Retail Park in Farmers Branch.

Cedar Creek Brewery, which originally opened in 2012, has continued to expand its presence in North Texas and beyond, while Chef-Engineered's first restaurant concept, LUCK at Trinity Groves, has also made a significant impression on both the craft beer and dining scene since its Dallas debut in 2013. With this coupling, both companies look to broaden their footprint in a growing, but competitive marketplace.

"While craft beer continues to make an impact in North Texas, and the desire for craft kitchens captures the attention away from chain restaurants, this partnership was an easy decision," says Jim Elliot, founder of Cedar Creek Brewery.

Mustang Station Restaurant & Retail Park is a 40,0000 square foot development owned by Western Securities (Cedar Creek Brewhouse & Eatery).

Cedar Creek Brewhouse & Eatery will combine an award-winning brewery with a from-scratch American regional comfort food kitchen. The idea takes the simple craft brewery one step further with the addition of a full-service restaurant that pairs each meal with a hand-crafted beer.

"Our hearty sandwiches, salads and entrees are the perfect addition to fresh, locally-brewed beer," adds Jeff Dietzman, co-founder of Chef-Engineered.

Current plans call for an opening to occur sometime in the third quarter of 2019. Cedar Creek Brewhouse & Eatery will be located at the intersection of Valley View Ln. and Bee St. in the city's Station Area mixed-use development.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Local events scheduled for Learn to Homebrew Day, November 3

Image credit: American Homebrewers Association.

This Saturday, November 3, the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) hosts the 20th Annual Learn to Homebrew Day. It's a day for homebrewers to encourage non-brewing friends and family to learn how to make beer at home.

"This year, we celebrate 40 years of the AHA, and 20 years of Learn to Homebrew Day," says Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association. "In 1999, Learn to Homebrew Day was established to promote the most rewarding and delicious activity of all time - homebrewing. And there's never been a better time to give it a try. Each year, it's gratifying to see so many beginners, hobbyists and professionals coming together. What's also gratifying? Tasting your very own brew."

Over 300 local celebrations are expected to occur this year, with events happening both in the U.S. and abroad. As for gatherings in the Metroplex, at least two events are being put on in honor of the occasion.

Additional resources for prospective homebrewers can be found on the AHA's website,, as well as in publications like Zymurgy and the book How to Brew by John Palmer. The AHA also offers a free mobile app, Brew Guru®, which delivers money-saving deals on beer, food and homebrewing supplies, while also providing access to a variety of homebrew recipes.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Texas Ale Project releasing The Caucasian in cans

Image courtesy of Texas Ale Project.
Texas Ale Project of Dallas has announced the pending release of The Caucasian in cans.

Billed as a white Russian imperial stout, The Caucasian (9.0% ABV, 75 IBU) is brewed with cold-brewed coffee, Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans, toasted oak and milk sugar. It had been a draft-only offering since its debut in 2015, but now this popular winter release will be available in four-packs of 12-ounce cans during the month of December.

From a press release:

"This ale is truly a labor of love and it demonstrates the brewery's passion for innovation and fine ingredients. Brent Thompson, head brewer at Texas Ale Project, looks forward each year to hand-selecting the coffee for the cold brew in partnership with Michael Wyatt, owner of Full City Rooster Coffee Roasting Studio."

A release party for the 2018 edition of The Caucasian will take place at Texas Ale Project's facility in Dallas on Friday, December 7 from 4-9 p.m. In addition to live music and food pairings provided by Cuates Kitchen, the event will feature a screening of The Big Lebowski - the movie that inspired the beer's name.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - October 24, 2018 edition

New cans and new brands lead the way in this edition of the Conspectus, which also hits on the topic of the first cider company to open in Fort Worth.


Four Bullets, Thirsty Bro preparing first packaged products

Inaugural canning runs are scheduled for next month at Thirsty Bro Brewing Co. of Royse City and Four Bullets Brewery of Richardson.

At Thirsty Bro, variety four-packs are in the works with cans of Heff Dat Hefeweizen, Mo Bro IPA, Southern Belle Porter and Sweet Cherry Blonde (not pictured) to be included. Shipments to accounts throughout Dallas-Forth Worth are expected to begin after cans are filled on November 1.

Four Bullets has chosen Billion Dollar Blonde for its first foray into cans, with packaging to occur in mid-November. Six-packs of Billion Dollar Blonde will then roll out to retailers in and around Dallas and Richardson.

TABC approves permits for Soul Fire and Edgewise Eight

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) granted licenses for two future North Texas entities in October.

In Roanoke, demolition and site preparation is complete on the downtown space to be occupied by Soul Fire Brewing Co., with construction to begin once a building permit is obtained from the city. If all goes according to plan, Soul Fire will open in early spring 2019.

Edgewise Eight Brewing continues to scout locations out west in Parker County.The group applied for a brewing permit to allow them to explore other options for production in the meantime.

Two breweries on tap for North Richland Hills

Not one, but two brewing operations are set to debut in North Richland Hills next year, now that Brutal Beerworks and False Idol Brewing have secured locations in the city.

Brutal Beerworks will be established on an end-cap in the Harwood Plaza development at 8447 Boulevard 26 (3400 square feet), while False Idol will open less than a mile away in a former auto shop at 7924 Maplewood Ave. (4100 square feet).

Locust establishes first cidery in Fort Worth

The first cidery to operate in Fort Worth opens this week in the city's Near Southside neighborhood. Locust Cider is a Washington-based company with three locations in its home state. The firm's Texas outpost is located at 710 S. Main St., which puts it on the same block as Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.

Image credits (top to bottom): Thirsty Bro Brewing Co., Four Bullets Brewery, Soul Fire Brewing Co., Edgewise Eight Brewing, Brutal Beerworks, False Idol Brewing, Locust Cider.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Deep Ellum bringing back Barrel-Aged Four Swords, October 26

The 2017 edition of Barrel-Aged Four Swords
Belgian Style Quad (CANarchy/Deep Ellum Brewing Co.).

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas has announced the return of Barrel-Aged Four Swords Belgian-Style Quad, with initial deliveries expected to begin October 26.

Four Swords was originally added to Deep Ellum's portfolio in late 2013, with a barrel-aged version rolling out a year later. Past editions of Barrel-Aged Four Swords have utilized Cabernet and whiskey barrels, but Deep Ellum chose to age Four Swords in new oak barrels for this latest release.

"The charred oak compliments the roasted malts, while dark fruit esters add a layer of complexity to the beer," says Ty McDonnough, lead brewer at Deep Ellum. "Four Swords has a strong fruity aroma with a sweet oaky finish, which pairs well with rich foods such as smoked ribs and delicate desserts."

According to a press release, dried cherries and figs mingle with notes of toffee, rustic oak, marshmallow and vanilla in the finished beer, with the combination resulting in a "delicately balanced and complex specialty brew that clocks in at 10.5% ABV."

Look for Barrel-Aged Four Swords to be available on draft and in 22-ounce bottles.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Get pours for the posse at Cowtown in Fort Worth

(Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Among the more than 20 brewery or brewpub openings to happen in North Texas over the last two years, only one occurred in Fort Worth. That drought was relieved a bit this weekend, however, with the debut of Cowtown Brewing Co. in the northern section of the city.

Founded on the idea that "great beer deserves equally great barbecue," the barbecue aspect of the business may still be a few days away, but Cowtown's beer began flowing on Friday night. A mix of German classics, IPAs, and off-the-menu stouts made up the opening day menu, providing patrons with a mix of modern and traditional styles.

Large batch selections included Rhinestone Cowboy (German kölsch), Sim City IPA (DDH IPA brewed with Simcoe hops), The Last Kaiser (imperial märzen Oktoberfest) and my personal favorite, Spalt Bier (German altbier brewed with Spalt hops). Two additional double dry-hopped IPAs made up the small batch section of the menu, with Amarillo On My Mind (DDH IPA brewed with Amarillo hops) said to be a best seller.

Beyond those beers, co-founder and head brewer, Shawn Kidwell, says he's got a double IPA and a doppelbock currently fermenting in the tanks. Naturally, those fall into the company's short-term plan, while things like fruited sour beers (targeted to pair with barbecue desserts) and barrel-aged offerings are items in the works for further down the road.

With beer on the inside and barbecue on the outside, Cowtown looks to offer the
best of both to folks in Fort Worth (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).
"We're kind of figuring out how to work within our space right now, but long-term we'll get into sour beers and barrel-aging," says Kidwell. "For sour beers, I want to be careful and make sure we keep things isolated, and for our barrel program to work we'll probably have to make the barrels part of the decor."

Cowtown's beers are draft-only for now, but the brewpub's setup provides it with the ability to offer up to twelve beers on tap from the bar. A can seamer is also installed on site, allowing customers to grab beer to-go in the form of 32-ounce crowlers.

Regarding an official welcoming event, that's likely to take place a few weeks after Cowtown gets the smoker out back fully up and running.

"We wanted to get open as soon as we could, just to work out the kinks and get everything in order," says Kidwell. "Once we're settled on both the beer and barbecue side, we'll schedule the grand opening party. So, come in now for the beer, but come back for the barbecue!"

Going forward, Cowtown will be closed for brewing operations on Mondays and Tuesdays, but open for business during the latter part of the week. Posted hours are Wednesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. - 12 a.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Otherworldly art and offerings on tap at Celestial Beerworks

A large external mural greets visitors as they enter the brewery's taproom
at 2530 Butler Street (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D). 

Should you feel a slight tug as you drive through the northwestern section of Dallas, don't be alarmed. It's just a cosmic force telling you the time has come to visit Celestial Beerworks, as the brewery is now open in the city's Medical District.

Matt and Molly Reynolds founded Celestial on the premise of bringing together the couple's three favorite things - art, science and beer. It's appropriate, then, that the company's space sets up as a sort of out this world escape, with cosmic renderings setting the stage for a brewery universe where beers are "Celestial" bodies.

Stop in and sip on space-themed selections like Kepler (IPA), One Small Step (pale ale) and One Giant Leap (DIPA), while spotting constellations depicted on the walls. Those beers are just a preview of what's to come, though, as the brewery is operating on a soft basis while working to build up its portfolio.

"Now that we're open, I can finally turn my brewing brain back on and start to think about recipes," says Reynolds. "We plan to have up to seven or eight beers ready for the grand opening. There will be IPAs, but we've also got an imperial stout and a pale wheat session beer in the tanks right now."

Looks can be deceiving from the outside, but inside Celestial has ample elbow
room with seating options inside and out (Photos: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

On that note, Reynolds admits he's a fan of hoppy beers (he built a following brewing them during his first stint in the industry at Malai Kitchen), but consumers can expect Celestial to serve up a variety of styles. Reynolds also mentioned that the brewery will do some barrel-aging, with the first foray into that territory being a coffee stout that's set to spend six months resting in a Maker's Mark vessel.

Regarding availability, early indications are that the taproom will be the primary place to purchase and enjoy Celestial's products, at least for the time being.

"Starting out, we're going to focus on sales here at the brewery," say Reynolds. "Once things get settled, we may look into mobile canning and some limited distribution, but for now we'll pour beer in the taproom and offer crowlers to-go."

As for the official debut, a grand opening celebration will happen on Halloween. After that, Celestial will begin regular taproom hours, with the brewery likely to be open later in the week and on weekends.

Soft opening hours:
Friday, October 12: 4-10 p.m.
Thursday-Friday, October 18-19: 4-8 p.m.
Saturday, October 20: 2-8 p.m.

Hoppy Halloween Grand Opening Celebration:
Wednesday, October 31: 4 p.m. - 12 a.m.

Friday, September 28, 2018

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - September 28, 2018 edition

A bevy of beverage types appear in this edition of the Conspectus, yet seeing as how it's National Drink Beer Day, perhaps it would be appropriate to drink a beer while reading this latest round of updates.


Black Man Brewing introduces "First Cello" series

Nomadic brewer Barrett Tillman of Blackman Brewing has produced a concerto of beer he has dubbed the "First Cello" series. The arrangement consists of a draft-only base beer, First Cello Tart Ale, and a series of movements to be released in bottles. The movements represent deviations from the original beer, each featuring different ingredients infused with liquid taken from the early or late stages of fermentation. First Cello is available on tap now at Small Brewpub, while bottle variants may be purchased online for pickup on Tuesday nights in October.

Breaking Brew Meadery opening in Dallas

Emerging somewhat quietly on the North Texas scene, Breaking Brew Meadery opens its doors to the public for the first time on Friday, September 28. Located at 14438 Midway Rd. in Dallas, the company's initial operating hours will be Friday 4-9 p.m., Saturday 1-9 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m.

Trinity Cider makes Dallas debut on October 5

Production is underway at Trinity Cider in Dallas, with the company's grand opening now set for Friday, October 12. The business, which has set up shop at 2656 Main Street in Deep Ellum, occupies the same space as a 1990s-era brewing operation that was known as Main Street Brewing Co.

Special use permit approved for Siren Rock

After successfully navigating a number of roadblocks, a special use permit was approved by the Rockwall City Council for Siren Rock Brewing Co. in August. This will allow the venture to continue to move forward in the development process, with the submission of site plans, architectural drawings and the like being next on the agenda.

Image credits (top to bottom): Blackman Brewing, Breaking Brew Meadery, Trinity Cider, Siren Rock Brewing Co.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Oskar Blues now brewing Dale's Pale Ale with Texas-made malt

Tim Matthews, Brandon Ade and Michael Harris
at Blacklands Malt in Leander, Texas (Oskar Blues Brewery).

Oskar Blues Brewery in Austin, Texas, has announced a change to the company's flagship beer, Dale's Pale Ale. The beer is now being brewed with locally-crafted malt developed by Leander-based Blacklands Malt.

Up until now, Dale's had been brewed with commercial Munich malt, but a move to Blacklands allows the brewery to incorporate sustainable, locally-sourced ingredients, while supporting the community and calling attention to the art of craft malting. As for how the change came about, the idea started germinating when Tim Mathews, Oskar Blues' head of brewing operations, met Blacklands' founder, Brandon Ade, in 2016.

After that, Ade and Michael Harris, Oskar Blues’ head brewer in Austin and malt enthusiast, started working together by incorporating Blacklands malt into specialty beers. Then, in the fall of 2017, they started talking about a larger project.

“I approached Tim and Michael and asked, ‘how can we get this malt out there and capture something unique and authentic going on in Austin?,'" says Ade. "The conversation evolved and we started looking at the Munich malts used in Dale’s.”

What followed were months of research, development and collaboration between the two teams, including the Oskar Blues’ lab headed by Brian Roye. Eventually the kiln schedule and recipe were dialed in to develop Brown Field 10 Texas Munich, which meets the color and toasty flavor profile required to brew Dale’s Pale Ale.

“I don’t know of any other iconic flagships doing something like this,” says Matthews. “We hope people will start coming into the taproom and saying, ‘I want something with Texas malt in it.’ It’s sustainable, and contributing back to a sustainable world is definitely important to us. This is a major way we can illustrate that.”

Harris has an equally compelling reason for pursuing craft malt – it’s part of supporting the community.

“I’ve been interested in where ingredients come from since I started professionally brewing," says Harris. "It’s important to use local ingredients and to be involved in the community.”

Ade also makes the point that it’s important to raise awareness around the connection between the consumer and the supply chain, and to call attention to the farmers that grow the barley that ends up in beer. Blacklands has worked with Texas A&M University since 2012 on research that aims to empower farmers to grow barley.

"It’s about supporting farm families outside of hops - hops get a lot of limelight," says Ade. "Malting is equally important."

According to a press release, Dale’s Pale Ale brewed with Blackland's Brown Field 10 Texas Munich is now available in Texas and surrounding states.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

North Texas notches four medals: That and more from the 2018 GABF

Thursday night at the Great American Beer Festival (Photo © 2018 Brewers Association).

This year, the official coming of fall brought with it the conclusion of the 2018 Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Held, as always, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, the competition portion of the program involved the evaluation of over 8500 beers spread across 102 different categories. In other words, many beers were consumed and many medals were awarded (306 to be exact) at this annual celebration of great American beer.

A total of 18 medals found their way into the hands of brewers from the Lone Star State, with four of those going to breweries from North Texas. Locals landing on the winners list were 903 Brewers, Bankhead Brewing Co., Oak Highlands Brewery and Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. Within that group, Bankhead and Oak Highlands snagged GABF medals for the first time, while 903 Brewers scored its second overall prize. And Rahr & Sons? That brewery now has six notches on its GABF belt, with the brewery's seasonal Oktoberfest receiving accolades for the third time in four years (priors: 2015 - gold, 2017 - silver).

903 Brewers, Sherman: Bronze for Kilt Switch in the
Scotch Ale category (Photo © 2018 Brewers Association).

Bankhead Brewing Co., Rowlett: Silver for Hoofer's Hef in the
South German-Style Hefeweizen category (Photo © 2018 Brewers Association).

Oak Highlands Brewery, Dallas: Bronze for Oktoberfest in the
German-Style Maerzen category (Photo © 2018 Brewers Association).

Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth: Gold for Oktoberfest in the
German-Style Maerzen category (Photo © 2018 Brewers Association).

As for other notable topics from this year's event and beyond, an additional note or two on the competition is provided below, along with my usual roundup of visits to breweries in and around the Denver area.


Haze craze not just a phase

Much has been made of the seemingly meteoric rise in popularity of hazy and/or juicy IPAs, and the subject was front and center at the beginning of this year's awards ceremony. Competition Director, Chris Swersey, opened the show with the previously-revealed news that "Juicy or India Pale Ale" was the most-entered category of the competition, having knocked "American-Style India Pale Ale" from the top spot for the first time since 2002. This, Swersey suggested, was proof positive that haze isn't just a phase, and that perhaps its time for detractors to stop dissing the style.

Not a banner day for Blue Ribbon and its ilk

As far as I can tell, no "big" beers won a medal for the first time ever. There was no Miller, no Coors (or MillerCoors), no Anheuser Busch, and no Pabst to be found among winners in the Light Lager/Malt Liquor or Cream Ale categories. Pabst Blue Ribbon won medals in 2016 and 2017 for "American-Style Lager or Malt Liquor," but this year's honorees were all independent American brewers. One was even unsung, literally, as Unsung Brewing Co. of Tustin, Ca., nabbed a bronze for a lager called Lumino.

The ABGB is a shining star in Austin

If you're like me, and have yet to check out Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., it might be time to put "The ABGB" at the top of your to-visit list. The Austin brewpub and its crew have now been named "Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year" for the third year in a row, an accomplishment that has to be among the most impressive feats ever achieved by a Texas-based brewing operation.

Taproom Trips

Left: Enjoy views of Jefferson Park while sipping on brews at Briar Common.
Right: Steps away from Mile High Stadium, Little Machine is the perfect place for a pregame pint.
(Photos: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).
Just north of Mile High Stadium, the Jefferson Park neighborhood in Denver is home to Briar Common Eatery + Brewery and Little Machine Beer. Briar Common is a brewpub with ten beers on tap and a full kitchen serving lunch and dinner, while Little Machine is a robot-themed brewery with great variety that sits little more than a stone's throw from the stadium parking lot.

Left: WeldWerks' taproom boasts over 30 taps, with popular styles balanced by the occasional classic.
Right: Custom cars and craft beer combine to create virtual man cave at Mash Lab Brewing.
(Photos: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).
Many make the pilgrimage to WeldWerks Brewing in Greeley for its array of hazy IPAs,  sour beers and flavorful stouts. And, while I would encourage fans of those types of beers to make the trip, I might also suggest a stop at Mash Lab Brewing in nearby Windsor. The selection is straightforward, but the beer is good and you can't beat the atmosphere, considering Mash Lab shares space with a nationally-recognized hot rod shop. Only a glass wall separates the two businesses, which means you can enjoy a beer while ogling over custom cars being crafted next door.

Left: Besides being a shrine to diminutive spirits, The Grateful Gnome is a place for beer and house-made sandwiches.
Right: Enter the alley behind Grateful Gnome to find the entrance to De Steeg / Blind Faith Brewing.
(Photos: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).
I tend to seek out brewery clusters when traveling, and the Berkeley neighborhood in northwest Denver is a section of town that offers exactly that. Three brewing operations representing four different brands inhabit the area, with the total walking distance between them being roughly a block.

The name tells the story at The Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe & Brewery, a spot which exists on the same alley as the dual-branded operation, De Steeg/Blind Faith Brewing. Diversity of style is what you'll find at the Gnome and De Steeg, while Blind Faith focuses on beers brewed in the Belgian monastic tradition.

Just down the way, food options are also in play at Call to Arms Brewing Co. (not pictured), thanks to Mas Kaos Pizzeria + Taqueria being located in the same building. As for the brewery's taproom, it's a vibrant and inviting space reminiscent of an old English pub.

Left: Beer and books are brought together at Fiction Beer Company.
Right: Dry Dock - North Dock is the brewery/taproom closest to Denver International Airport.
(Photos: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).
Literary references are omnipresent at Fiction Beer Co., where bound volumes surround patrons seated in the taproom. Offerings of "liquid literature" are broken down by genre on the brewery's menu, with beers falling into the categories of Classics, Adventure and Fantasy.

Located one exit east of the entrance to Denver International Aiprort, Dry Dock Brewing Co. - North Dock is the place to go for one last beer before catching a flight back home. North Dock is a secondary production facility for the Aurora-based company, with a bit of contract brewing done in house as well.

For more on the 2018 GABF and the historical performance of breweries from North Texas, click the links below: