Sunday, April 1, 2018

My 2018 Big Texas tasting card

Image credits: Brewvolution, Braindead Brewing, AleSmith Brewing Co., Tupps Brewery, Celis Brewery,
Hemisphere Brewing Co., Division Brewing, 903 Brewers, Turning Point Beer, On Rotation, Real Ale Brewing Co.

Having completed its seventh installment this weekend, one might wonder if Big Texas Beer Fest (BTBF) is susceptible to the idea of a "seven year itch." Judging by the size and consistency of the crowds, though, I'd say such a sentiment isn't something that warrants discussion. Clearly, the craft beer love affair still lingers, and BTBF continues to be a can't miss event.

So, what went down during the 2018 festivities? Well, one of the highlights at this year's event was the eagerly-anticipated appearance of Turning Point Beer of Bedford. The area's newest brewing operation wasn't the only one making its first festival foray, though, as Division Brewing out of Arlington debuted as well. Both offered attendees a taste of three different beers on Friday, with Turning Point pouring two IPAs (Snowblower, Single Hoptions Enigma) and an imperial stout (Ebony an Ebony), and Division doling out a pale ale (Transmissions from Idaho 7), a stout (Ben Stout) and a saison (Born of Oak).

Also drawing interest was the booth of 903 Brewers, as the Sherman-based company trotted out a selection of eight high-ABV beers. Five were Sasquatch variants, one of which I would count among the best local beers I've had in 2018. That brew, Bordeaux Barrel-Aged Sasquatch, draws its defining character from casks sourced from Opus One Winery in the Napa Valley.

Beyond that, given the ongoing haze craze, a mention of New England IPAs is in order. Tupps Double Dry-Hopped IPA #2 led local options, with others consisting of 3 Nations Haze Wizard, Franconia Hazy Dhaze, Humperdinks Misty Mountain Hops, Malai Kitchen Denali IPA, Manhattan Project Double Half-Life and Turning Point Snowblower. Not surprisingly, results were varied, and whether or not this one or that one truly constituted a NEIPA was likely a matter of debate at some point in the evening. Either way, all came across as good IPAs, regardless of stylistic semantics.

As for the usual roundup of festival favorites, a six-pack of notable brews can be found below. Standard disclaimers apply...these beers are new to the market, or at least new to me, which is why you won't see a list of known whales in what follows.


AleSmith Speedway Stout with Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee: Earthy roast and flavors of dark chocolate dominate this Speedway variant made with cold-brewed coffee from the Caribbean.

Braindead Piper at the Gates of Dawn: A tasty Scotch ale with a wee bit of roast, thanks to the infusion of Noble Coyote coffee beans. Oh, and it gets bonus points for the Pink Floyd debut album reference.

Celis Raspberry: If memory serves, Celis Raspberry represents the first fruit beer I ever tried. Of course, that was back when the original Celis Brewery was operating in Austin during the 1990s. And like all of the returning recipes, this beer brings back memories of days gone by.

Hemisphere Black Sacrament: Solid and straightforward, Black Sacrament is an imperial stout that stands on its own without any additive ingredients.

On Rotation Grisette w/ Lemon, Ginger & Grapefruit: A fruity and funky refresher, with a touch of spice, a hint of tartness and a slightly bitter edge.

Real Ale Mysterium Verum Cease & Desisyphus: A rum barrel-aged version of Sisyphus, this beer features rich flavors of caramel and molasses, with a vanilla flourish in the finish.

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