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!

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