Thursday, May 30, 2019

Armadillo finds path to TRVE enlightenment

Image credit: Armadillo Ale Works.

If you need help summoning a Serpent, who better to call upon than Colorado's most metal brewery? Indeed, Armadillo Ale Works of Denton has done just that in collaborating on a new beer with Denver-based TRVE Brewing Co.

TRVE, for those that don't know, is a small brewery located south of Downtown Denver. Inside it's dark (in more ways than one) and generally crowded, with most patrons attired in obsidian tones. This, of course, all set to a soundtrack of brutal beats streaming from the sound system.

Then, there's the beer. With selections like Seitan, Scorn, Cursed and Exhumation, TRVE's lineup reads like a dark passage delivered from the depths of hell.

Not exactly a natural fit next to Armadillo-named brews like Brunch Money, Honey Please and Quakertown, but that didn't stand in the way of co-founders Yianni Arestis and Bobby Mullins when the opportunity arose for Armadillo to explore a different direction.

So, how did such a night and day coupling come together?

"I met TRVE's head brewer and Denton native Zach Coleman in the early days of Armadillo," says Mullins. "We recently reconnected while Zach was in town visiting family and agreed to do a collaboration."

Enter the Serpent. Seven Serpent, that is, a golden ale brewed with 700 pounds of corn tortillas, lemon and lime peel, and salt. On top of that, the beer is fermented with a Scandinavian kveik yeast - because, Mullins declares, it's metal AF. And while the metal pedigree might be a bit off-brand, Seven Serpent stays true to Armadillo's longstanding commitment to the use of new and innovative ingredients.

"This beer highlights masa, which originates back to the Aztecs," explains Arestis. "They worshiped corn and thought it to be the source of life (they believed man was created from corn). Based on that, we are calling the beer 'Seven Serpent,' which is the English translation for Chicomecōātl, the Aztec goddess of corn, food, and drink."

With respect to the beer's sensory experience, Arestis describes it as sessionable with the flavor of corn tortillas backed by a little salt and lime. As for the aroma...

"When we were making Seven Serpent, the brewery smelled like tacos and beer," adds Arestis. "It was the best-smelling brew day ever!"

Seven Serpent will debut on Saturday, June 1, as part of Armadillo's Brewery and Taproom One Year Anniversary Party. After that, look for the beer to be available at retail in six-packs of 12-ounce cans.

The two parties also brewed a beer at TRVE using Colorado corn (instead of tortillas). That version is currently undergoing a mixed fermentation in oak barrels with kveik yeast and TRVE's house strain. It will be available in Denver later this year.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Funky Picnic set to open in Fort Worth, June 26

Image credit: Funky Picnic Brewery & Café.
Initial batches are underway and a date has been set at Funky Picnic Brewery & Café, as the company prepares to open its doors in the Near Southside neighborhood of Fort Worth.

A labor of love for homebrewers turned co-founders Samantha Glenn, Collin Zreet, Jenni Hanley and John Koch, the project has been in the works since the group first came together as The Fort Brewing Co. prior to 2014. Now realized as Funky Picnic Brewery & Café, what they've developed is a beer and food destination "built upon a shared love of beer, bread and the great outdoors."

On the brewery side, Funky Picnic promises to offer "craft beer for every taste." Led by Michael Harper (formerly of Oak Highlands Brewery and Texas Ale Project), the company's portfolio will mix classic styles with creative and unexpected combinations. Recipes will range from a crisp, refreshing pilsner, to a saison-tripel hybrid brewed with prickly pear cactus, agave nectar and pink peppercorns.

Regarding the culinary aspect, Chef Josh Rangel will serve artisan sandwiches, along with a selection of appetizers, salads and desserts (vegan options will also be available). Naturally, customers can expect beer to be incorporated into many menu items, some of which include beer cheese fondue, beer bacon jam, and house-made pickles dilled in pale ale.

As for when this all comes together, Funky Picnic will debut its spot at 401 Bryan Ave., Suite 117, on Wednesday, June 26. Following that, look for an official grand opening event to take place in July.

North Texas Craft Beer Conspectus - May 29, 2019 edition

Image credits: Krootz Brewing Co., HopFusion Ale Works,
Craft and Growler, Siren Rock Brewing Co., Trinity Forest Brewing Co.

In addition to the regular rundown of development activities, this edition of the Conspectus includes a license change for a Fort Worth brewery, the opening of a new brewery to the north, and the planned start of brewing operations at the area's original growler shop.


HopFusion changes license type, to begin selling beer to go June 4

HopFusion Ale Works of Fort Worth is the latest local firm to switch from a manufacturer's permit to a retail/brewpub license, a move which enables the brewery to sell beer to go under current law. Look for HopFusion to begin selling six-packs, crowlers, growlers and kegs for off-premise consumption on June 4.

Krootz Brewing Co. now open in Gainesville

Established as the first business of its kind in Cooke County, Krootz Brewing Co. opened its doors to the public on April 26. The company is currently serving a menu of small bites with its beers while preparations are made for an official grand opening event slated for June 15.

Craft and Growler adding brewing operations

According to a Facebook post on May 20, Craft and Growler has purchased equipment with the intention of brewing house beers at its location in Dallas. Craft and Growler was the first growler shop to open in North Texas, but it will the second such entity to add brewing operations after Bluffview Growler did so earlier this year.

An article posted by the Dallas Observer indicates Craft and Growler hopes to begin brewing by late summer.

Future Fermentations

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has approved a manufacturing permit for Siren Rock Brewing Co. of Rockwall. At last report, the start of construction was pending on the project, which is set to be located at 310 S. Goliad St.

Trinity Forest Brewing Co. of Dallas obtained its TTB (federal) approval this month. With a TABC permit already in hand, the group plans to brew its first production batch at Hop & Sting Brewing Co. on June 7.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Rahr & Sons scores silver for Ugly Pug at 2019 NorCal Brew Competition

Image credit: NorCal Brew Fest.

Accolades are in order for Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., as the Fort Worth brewery has followed up recent wins in Southern California with an award at the 2019 NorCal Brew Competition.

Put on in association with the Sonoma County Fair, the NorCal Brew Competition is a relatively new event, having only been in existence since 2017. The competition accepts entries from across the U.S., with submissions broken down into 16 consolidated categories.

Rahr & Sons received recognition for Ugly Pug, a German-style schwarzbier the brewery has produced since the year it opened in 2004. As for other winners, click here for a complete rundown of competition results.

Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.
  • Silver for Ugly Pug in the European Amber, Dark and Strong category.

Cheers and congratulations to Rahr & Sons!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tap takeovers go next level at The 2nd Tap

Think of The 2nd Tap as a pop-up shop for your
local brewery (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

A concept looking to push tap takeovers to the next level has taken root at the Dallas Farmers Market (DFM), as The 2nd Tap is now open and serving craft sodas as it awaits a permit to sell beer from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).

The brainchild of David Herrera and Charles Nelson, The 2nd Tap has slotted into the DFM booth formerly occupied by now-closed Noble Rey Brewing Co. of Dallas. And, while there will be cosmetic changes to the bar area the brewery used as a satellite taproom, its original function will remain the same - only different.

"While trying to decide what we wanted to do with the space, we thought it would be cool to continue what Noble Rey was doing," says Nelson. "We liked the idea of using the spot as a secondary taproom, but instead of having it be for just one brewery, we wanted to rotate it."

Thus, the idea of a "taproom takeover" was born. The setup: one brewery, eight taps, and a three-week residency. Then, literally, rinse and repeat.

In terms of motivation, establishing The 2nd Tap allows the partners to support the local brewing industry beyond work both are doing as part of Herrera's draft maintenance venture, Texas Draft Services (TDS).

"When cleaning lines as part of TDS we're helping breweries behind the scenes," explains Herrera. "But, we wanted to get out front and do more by showcasing breweries and helping them build their brands. Especially now with so many out there, some don't have the capital to go out and do a ton of marketing."

As for how they'll go about implementing their plan, Herrera and Nelson want to celebrate all facets of the breweries they'll feature. That goes for the beers in a company's portfolio, as well as the brand image a brewery seeks to convey.

"We want to work with the personality of a brewery," says Herrera. "We feel like we can bring attention to a brand by coming up with fun events where people are engaged and they develop an emotional tie to the beer. If that happens, it creates a following for the brewery."

Events could involve showing a scientific exhibit while a space-themed brewery is on tap, or setting up a mechanical bull while working with a brewery from Fort Worth. Anything goes, especially if it means getting away from the standard pint night. The goal is to identify what constitutes the norm in terms of industry events and to then do the opposite.

"Another big thing is how the name of the game now is what's new or what's limited with regard to beer," adds Nelson. "That sometimes makes it hard to find a brewery's core beers on tap. There's this idea that it's easier to sell new beers, so core beers don't get a lot of rotation. By tapping both core and seasonal beers, we get the added benefit of reminding customers about beers they may have forgotten."

Ultimately, though, The 2nd Tap is about putting an ounce or 16 of enjoyment back into the beer scene.

"We're just two guys trying to have a good time in this industry, like anyone else," says Herrera. "We want to make beer fun again, so you can expect silly and quirky events from us (think back-to-school parties were milk stouts are served in mini milk cartons). We'll play some good music and we'll drink some good beer, all while giving back to our local breweries."

Or taken another way, they're getting back to the whole idea of craft beer and community.

Beer-to-go passes Texas Senate as part of TABC Sunset Bill

Image: Texas Craft Brewers Guild.

Bringing years of legislative posturing to a successful end, substantial modernizations to Texas beer laws, including the ability for manufacturing craft breweries to sell beer-to-go, passed the Texas Senate Wednesday evening with a unanimous vote. Contingent upon the House concurring and the Governor’s signature on the bill, beer-to-go sales are expected to begin September 1, 2019.

“This legislation represents the most comprehensive and positive reform of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code (TABC) in a generation, while serving the entire industry from the manufacturer down to the consumer,” says Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. “Brewers will see reduced regulation, the elimination of redundant licensing, and the ability to get product to market faster. Distributors and retailers will see a stronger market with even greater brand choice. And most importantly, consumers will enjoy the fruit of these improvements, including the ability to buy beer-to-go from their favorite brewery.”

Texas is currently the only state in the entire country to prohibit manufacturing breweries from selling beer-to-go. State Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) and State Senator Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) set out to change that this session by authoring companion bills HB 672 and SB 312, respectively. After both bills stalled in committee without being granted a hearing, the authors successfully attached beer-to-go amendments to the broader reforms of the TABC Sunset Bill, narrowly passing the House on April 25 before yesterday’s passage in the Senate.

Unanimous passage of both the beer-to-go amendment and the overall Sunset Bill in the Senate came after a stakeholder agreement was reached between the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the Beer Alliance of Texas (BAT), and the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas (WBDT) compromising to reduce the per person beer-to-go limit from two cases to one case per day. Texas craft brewers owe a debt of gratitude to Sen. Brian Birdwell, Sen. Dawn Buckingham, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, and Rep. Chris Paddie for their work bringing the industry, and in turn, the legislature, to consensus behind beer-to-go and other key aspects of the larger Sunset bill.

“For the first time in Texas, you will be able to take a little bit of your favorite craft beer home from a brewery to share with friends,” says Sen. Buckingham. “This is a huge win for craft beer enthusiasts and also for the tourism it brings. This legislation will help Texans celebrate our great products and share them with the world!”

While not codified in the bill itself, the three trade groups also agreed in writing to a 12-year moratorium on lobbying to raise or lower the allowable malt beverage barrelage caps currently in code to ensure stability in the market and security in business models.

“This enshrines some of our most important rights and lets brewers plan their businesses without the fear of capricious policy change at the hands of other industry stakeholders,” says Adam DeBower, legislative committee chair for the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and co-founder of Austin Beerworks.

Some of the modernizations to Texas beer laws in the TABC Sunset Bill include:

  • Harmonization of “Beer” (currently specified in the code as a malt beverage under 5% ABV) and “Ale” (over 5% ABV) into the single category of Malt Beverage. Eliminating this old-fashioned distinction allows for permit consolidation for manufacturers and one set of rules for marketing practices, storage, taxation, reporting, etc. rather than today’s disparate rules for the two categories.
  • Adoption of the lower, “Beer” excise tax for all malt beverages. This harmonization will result in an excise tax reduction for craft brewers currently paying the “Ale” excise tax on beers in their portfolios over 5%.
  • Self-distributing breweries gain the right to have out-of-county warehouses for malt beverages which will allow them to serve greater areas of the state. Prior to this change, out-of-county warehousing of Ale (over 5%) has been prohibited.
  • Comprehensive label approval reform so the federal COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) is accepted on the state level (as is currently allowed for wine and spirits in Texas, but not malt beverages). This streamlining will allow brewers to get fresh beer to market faster by reducing long wait times.

These reforms are poised to go into effect between 2019 and 2021. Texas craft brewers have been advocating for beer-to-go and other reforms contained in the Sunset Bill for over a decade. The movement to #FixTexasBeerLaws gained steam in the run up to the 86th Legislature with the formation of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild’s political action committee, CraftPAC. Overwhelming grassroots advocacy led to over 15,000 petition signatures in favor of beer-to-go and thousands of Texans reaching out to their legislators directly via calls, emails, and social media to demand progress on this critical issue. This victory belongs to the thousands of Texans who have fought so hard for this moment.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Take a break from beer at Breaking Brew Meadery

Enjoy pints and flights in house, or grab crowlers or a growler
to go at Breaking Brew (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Until recently, the field of fermented beverages being made in North Texas consisted of various forms of beer, cider and spirits. Missing from that lineup was mead, but now honey wines have joined the ranks thanks to the arrival of Breaking Brew Meadery.

Breaking Brew debuted in September of last year, and in doing so it became only the second business of its kind to exist in North Texas. Its predecessor, Golden Grail Meadery, had a spot on Main Street in Deep Ellum, where it began operations in late 1996.

As for the modern day meadery, it's doing business off Midway Road in Farmers Branch. The hive, if you will, is contained in an industrial space occupying just under 1900 square feet. There, Breaking Brew is primarily a weekend destination, with taproom hours Thursday through Sunday.

Offerings at Breaking Brew are referred to as "session meads," but that seems to be a relative term referencing the idea that traditional meads have ABVs reaching as high as 20%. The company's present portfolio ranges from 5.9-7.8% ABV, which is probably a tick or two higher than what's generally associated with session beers.

Summing up the taste experience, the honey wines at Breaking Brew certainly aren't the sweet, syrupy grog some might expect (and no, there aren't any Viking horns from which to imbibe either). Instead, these meads are dry and drinkable with a relatively light body. Not only that, like some honey beers, much of the actual honey flavor appears to ferment out. What's left, then, is a subtly-flavored honey beverage that's ripe for enhancement.

Along those lines, Breaking Brew infuses various fruits, herbs and spices into its meads, with hops even showing up in one recipe. Flavor additions of cherry, blackberry, ruby red grapefruit and more are delicately-dosed, which makes for an array of balanced and enjoyable blends.

So, what's the best of the bunch?

Bee Sting, featuring jalapenos without the heat, was a popular choice with patrons on the day of my visit. For me, though, the favorite was Ginger Bear, a semi-sweet mead that's Breaking Brew's interpretation of a ginger beer.

Regardless of which you choose, all of Breaking Brew's meads represent a refreshing respite from the current landscape of craft beer concoctions. Indeed, if you're new to mead or simply curious, Breaking Brew is nothing if not a great place to take a break from beer.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Deep Ellum draws praise down under at 2019 Australian International Beer Awards

Image: Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas has drawn praise down under after winning three awards at the 2019 Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA).

Held in Melbourne and put on by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, the 2019 edition of the AIBA drew 2594 entries from 402 breweries (submissions were accepted in draught and packaged form). Just over half of the brewers who presented beers were from Australia, with the rest hailing from around the world. Judges evaluated beers in 83 different categories, with multiple gold, silver and bronze awards possible in each division.

As for Deep Ellum, the brewery's three award-winning brews are listed below. A complete list of winners can be found in the 2019 AIBA Catalogue of Results.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co.
  • Silver for Play Date (packaged) in the Other Specialty Beer category.
  • Bronze for Local Legend (packaged) in the Sweet Stout category.
  • Bronze for Neato Bandito (packaged) in the Other International Style Lager category.

Cheers and congratulations to Deep Ellum!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Lakewood revives Raspberry Temptress

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

After being retired for over 18 months, Raspberry Temptress is back as a member of the Seduction Series at Lakewood Brewing Co. (LBC) of Garland.

Raspberry Temptress debuted as the initial offering in Lakewood's Seduction Series in 2014. A year later, it became the first beer in that line to be sold at retail in 22-ounce bottles. Seasonal releases continued around Valentine's Day through 2017, but fans of the beer were forced to seek solace in other variants once Raspberry Temptress was left off the 2018 production schedule.

So, what prompted the return?

“We like to keep our Seduction Series lineup ever-changing," says Wim Bens, president and founder of LBC. "Temptress is such a great beer to add layers of flavor to that we don’t want to release the same four versions every year. That means that some of our favorites will take a break from time to time in order for us to bring new ideas and exciting flavors to our fans. So this year Coconut Temptress is taking a break and Raspberry, usually released for Valentine’s Day, comes back in for the summer.”

As has been the case in the past, Raspberry Temptress starts with The Temptress as the base beer, and is then infused with what the brewery describes as a "ridiculous amount of fresh raspberry puree."

“This year’s batch took over 1,000 pounds of fresh Oregon raspberry puree to get the flavor just right," adds Bens. "The result is a big, decadent stout with a subtle fruit acidity and a chocolate covered raspberry aroma.”

According to a press release, Raspberry Temptress is now available for a limited time in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles at liquor stores and gourmet grocery stores, as well as on draft at craft beer-centric bars and restaurants.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Lakewood garners gold for BBT at 2019 San Diego International Beer Competition

Image credit: San Diego International Beer Festival.

Results from the 2019 San Diego International Beer Competition have been revealed, with Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland landing on the list of winners.

Over 1500 beers were entered in this year's competition, with submissions coming from breweries in 5 countries. In the U.S. alone, 26 states were represented at the event, where prizes were awarded in 60 different style categories.

As for Lakewood's winning brew, that would be none other than Bourbon Barrel Temptress (BBT), arguably one of the most popular beers made in North Texas.

Lakewood Brewing Co.
  • Gold for Bourbon Barrel Temptress in the Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout category.

Cheers and congratulations to Lakewood!