Sunday, September 29, 2019

Soul Fire ready to bring robust offerings to Roanoke

Soul Fire, Roanoke's first brewery, anchors the city's Oak. St. Food & Brew
brewery and food hall concept (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

The first official brew day is in the books at Soul Fire Brewing Co. of Roanoke, as the company starts to build inventory ahead of a planned grand opening event on Saturday, October 19.

Aaron Bennett and James Brown form the team behind Soul Fire, the only known brewing operation to exist in Roanoke. The brewery is part of a food hall concept called Oak St. Food & Brew, located in the city at 206 N. Oak St.

Within the confines of that venture, Soul Fire will be joined by a variety of food providers, with barbecue, burgers, fish & chips, and deli sandwiches all set to be on the menu. And, as is the case with similar setups elsewhere, the property is licensed as a whole to allow patrons to enjoy a beer wherever they like - whether that be on the patio, in the food court, or while sitting at the bar in the taproom.

Speaking of the taproom, Soul Fire has 20 taps it will work to stock with house brews crafted by head brewer Eric Hilliard (Audacity Brew House, Denton County Brewing Co.). Guest beers will fill a number of slots to start, but most will be phased out as production picks up over time.

On that, Bennett offered the following perspective, "We'll have other options, but when I go to other breweries, I want to drink that brewery's beer, so I hope people come here because they want to drink Soul Fire beer."

Soul Fire's space inside Oak St. Food & Brew consists of 3100 square feet. The brewery's taproom adjoins a patio out
front, with a production area housing a 15-barrel brewhouse set up in the back (Photos: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

As for how they'll approach their product and style mix, Soul Fire's founders intend to draw inspiration from a popular Austin brewpub.

"We want to model our selection like that of the original Pinthouse Pizza on Burnet Rd. in Austin," says Bennett. "They have four beers that are always available, but everything else rotates. Plus, we like IPAs and stouts - styles Pinthouse is known for, so we'll have those types of beer tapped on a regular basis."

True to that statement, Soul Fire featured a SMaSH IPA and a New England-style IPA during a soft opening this weekend. Similar offerings are expected to be part of the brewery's initial lineup, along with a double IPA with West Coast influence making an appearance as well.

Beyond those, a Belgian witbier will add variety at the outset, while a coffee stout targeting the brewery's nitro tap is also in the works. Then further out, look for Soul Fire to roll out barrel-aged brews, as a run of spent barrels is already on the way.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Howling Mutt opens new nanobrewery in Denton

Howling Mutt offers full pours and flights of Haufen Beer (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

North Texas has a new nanobrewery in the form of Howling Mutt Brewing Co. of Denton. Located just off The Square at 205 N. Cedar St., founders Alex Manning and Justin Reed debuted the spot on Thursday night.

And to be clear, the nanobrewery tag applies to the operation as a whole. Indeed, Howling Mutt is making beer on a one-barrel system in digs encompassing roughly 1200 square feet. They say good things come in small packages, though, so no doubt Dentonites are hoping for big things from what might be the smallest brewery in North Texas.

On that note, production area takes up a third of Howling Mutt's available space, with the rest allocated to the taproom. Elbow room is limited, but a patio out back is as big or bigger than the entire indoor allotment combined. Taken together, there's plenty of room to move around, especially if you're the type that enjoys imbibing outside - granted, it might be nice if Mother Nature would finally flip the switch on fall.

As for what there is to drink, Howling Mutt serves up its own creations, as well as guest beers (on draft and in cans) from other local brewers. House brews are called Haufen Beer, with available options on opening day including the brewery's Session IPA, Redwood IPA and Strawberry Blond.

Of course, batch sizes are small, which suggests any given beer will only be available for a limited time. Then again, that's the beauty of a small-scale setup. It allows a brewer the freedom to quickly adapt and adjust the brewery's lineup based on customer feedback, while also providing those same customers something new to try virtually every time they visit.

With that in mind, if you wish to sample Howling Mutt's inaugural offerings, you should probably plan to drop by over the next couple of days. You can do so during the company's grand opening event continuing this weekend, with hours set for Friday from 10-5 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. - midnight.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tupps to tap Cotton Candy Shandy at State Fair of Texas

Image courtesy of Tupps Brewery.

Tupps Brewery of McKinney is getting in on the fun of the 2019 State Fair of Texas with the release of a beer it describes as a "new, delicious attraction [that's] here to please the masses."

Set to be tapped at the State Fair on Friday, September 27, Cotton Candy Shandy is a beer that certainly fits with the event given it's brewed with a classic carnival confection. Not only that, it's a unique offering representative of the theme of this year's State Fair: "Celebrating Texas Creativity."

“It’s fun to brew a special beer specifically for the State Fair," says Chris Lewis, head brewer at Tupps. "We wanted to create a light, refreshing and slightly sweet beer that will appeal to lots of people. I added cotton candy into the brew to get a sweet touch at the end of each taste. The beer is not overly sweet, but it will pair nicely with all the fried foods you plan on eating."

Look for Cotton Candy Shandy at the following locations inside the State Fair: Bluebonnet Roadhouse, Chili Parlor in the Tower Building, State Fair Wine Garden, Automobile Building, Taco Hut at Grand Place, Texas Burgers in Cotton Bowl Plaza, and Yardbirds near Gate 9.

The beer will also be available in the brewery's taproom.

Consumers are invited to share pictures of themselves enjoying Cotton Candy Shandy. Remember to tag @TUPPSBrewery with the hashtag #cottoncandyshandy.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Westlake Brewing Co. makes its debut in Deep Ellum

 Westlake was first established as a company in 2015. Its road to realization included an Idiegogo campaign
that raised nearly $15,000 for the project's development (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D)

Deep Ellum may be developing into a beer and cider destination all its own, now that Westlake Brewing Co. has opened its doors at 2816 Commerce St. The new entity joins neighbors BrainDead Brewing, Deep Ellum Brewing Co. and Trinity Cider in the Dallas entertainment district, with the four companies all lying along a half-mile stretch.

Led by founder Art Harvey and director of operations Bill Parker, Westlake began serving customers on Wednesday. The brewery is operating on a soft basis as it prepares for a mid-October grand opening, with soft pretzels, beer and sodas among the introductory offerings.

Initial tap wall selections consist of 10 beers crafted by head brewer Peter Hemmingsen (formerly of Bitter Sisters Brewery in Addison and Mountain Fork Brewery in Oklahoma). Those are broken down into core beers (four at present), along with a set of small-batch single-barrel creations only available in the taproom.

Westlake is operating in a 9000 square foot facility in Deep Ellum. The space houses the production and 
public areas, as well as a full on-site kitchen (Photos: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D, click images to enlarge).

With regard to styles, a number of Belgian beers (grisette, saison, tripel, witbier, bière de garde) are in the mix to start, with others including an oatmeal stout, a barleywine and...yes...a hazy IPA. All were well-executed efforts, and most represented types of beer that are getting more and more difficult to find. My personal favorite among them was Leg Day, a Scotch ale, but it I was also pleased to see a "table beer" option, that being a farmhouse ale with an ABV of just 3.4%.

Eventually, upwards of 24 different beers will be available on a day-to-day basis at Westlake. Recipes may come and go based on feedback, but customers can expect the brewery to explore what's new and popular in the world of beer, while also serving up a variety of "refreshingly simple" standards.

As for when you can stop in and check out Westlake for yourself, the brewery is open seven days a week. Stop in for full pours, a flight, or grab some beer to-go in the form of 32-ounce cans and 750 mL bottles.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Lakewood inks distro pact with Hops & Vines

Image credit: Lakewood Brewing Co.

Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland has signed a deal with Hop & Vines Distributing for the delivery of its products to markets across Texas.

“We are pumped to join forces with the talented team at Hops and Vines Distributing,” says Wim Bens, founder and president of Lakewood. “Hops and Vines shares our dedication to quality, service, and bringing only the best craft beer to market. Since day one, our approach was to grow our distribution footprint organically, and now the time has come to share the beer love with almost all of Texas.”

According to a press release, Hops and Vines will roll out distribution to Waco, San Antonio and Houston in addition to the current Lakewood footprint over the next few months. The company will also take over distribution rights in the Austin market.

 “We are incredibly excited and proud to partner with Wim and the brewing talent at Lakewood, and to support and enhance their brand-building efforts throughout the state of Texas,” says Tristan Maldonado, co-founder and CEO of Hops and Vines.

Lakewood’s year-round beers include Lakewood Lager, Lakewood IPA, All Call Kölsch, Lemonale and The Temptress. Another full-time offering, Texas Porter, is set to be launched soon.

“Lakewood is perhaps best known for The Temptress, which is the #1-selling craft stout in the entire state of Texas, even though it’s currently only distributed in limited areas of the state," adds Maldonado. "We’re excited to bring The Temptress and Lakewood’s other highly creative beers to share with beer lovers across more of our great state.”

Hops and Vines will begin servicing Lakewood's retail accounts during the month of September. Lakewood will officially mark its entry into San Antonio at the San Antonio Beer Festival on October 19th, 2019.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

B-Funk is Lakewood's latest Barrelworks brew

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland has announced the release of B-Funk, a new wild farmhouse ale from the brewery's Barrelworks program.

Three years in the making, B-Funk is the latest realization of what Lakewood describes as "a slowly growing and evolving sour and mixed-culture program." The beer is a blend of barrel-aged saisons from three different years with brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus cultures. It was packaged in 375 mL green, champagne-like bottles, then corked and capped before a multiple-month rest to allow it to naturally carbonate in the bottle.

"We've been playing around with wild beers since we started, but now that we have multiple years of barrel-aged beers in the cellar, the program is finally coming into its own," says Wim Bens, founder and president of Lakewood. "The ability to blend different vintages or even different beers together really increases our innovative edge."

B-Funk is only the second Barrelworks beer to see wide release, following Wild Manimal which first appeared on draft in 2015. Subsequent entries in the series, Cuvée de Vélo (three-year wild sour ale blend) and Passion Pony (wild ale with passion fruit), have only been sold in Lakewood's taproom.

"We’ve learned a lot from those previous beers, and B-Funk is a great example of getting all the things right," explains Bens. "We used a variety of old-world techniques and the result is amazing."

Look for B-Funk to be available on a limited basis in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with bottles and kegs hitting the market in September.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Franconia brings new mix to 2019 Original State Fair Brew

Image credits: Franconia Brewing Co., Fiesta Enterprises.

Continuing a series started in 2014, Original State Fair Brew (OSFB) has once again partnered with a North Texas brewery to create a new and exciting version of their annual State Fair-themed beer.

For this year's edition, the OSFB folks enlisted the help of Franconia Brewing Co. of McKinney, a choice that may surprise some given the brewery's usual strict adherence to tradition. The State Fair of Texas, of course, is famous for defying convention with its food and beverage offerings, often showcasing taste combinations that challenge even the most ardent explorers of new and unusual flavors.

So how, then, did this collaboration come to pass?

According to Franconia founder Dennis Wehrmann, it was a matter of convincing Fiesta Enterprises, the creators of the OSFB concept, to go in a different direction. In the past, local breweries infused ingredients to create State Fair beers reminiscent of funnel cake, corn dogs and pumpkin pie. This year, though, consumer will have the chance to conceive their own unique State Fair brew.

"People like to mix things with beer, so I introduced Fiesta owners Rudy and Justin Martinez to the idea of a snow cone system," says Wehrmann. "You start with a base beer, and then let customers mix it with other flavors."

The origin of the concept is a German-style radler, a beverage consisting of a 50/50 mix of beer and either soda or fruit puree. At the State Fair, the drink will be known as Barnyard Radler, with Franconia Wheat (a classic hefeweizen) forming the foundation of the system.

Consumers will be able to instill up to four different flavors in the beer, but suggested varieties you'll be able to order by name include Cattleman Cola (with Coca-Cola), Watermelon Wrangler, Strawberry Fields, and Pig-in-the-Mud Pumpkin.

"We tried a lot of flavors and these were the best combinations," explains Wehrmann. "Plus, our wheat beer works because it supports a lot of fruitiness to begin with."

Naturally, such mixes lie outside the realm of the Reinheitsgebot (a.k.a. the German Beer Purity Law), a guiding principle for Franconia since day one. But what makes this collaboration a fit, while also maintaining the spirit of the State Fair, is the fact that the brewery's role lies strictly with the base beer.

"We thought, why not leave the creativity to the customer," says Wehrmann. "They can use their imagination and choose the flavors they want to make the 'beer.' We just provide a starting point, which allows us to stay true to our roots."

The 2019 State Fair of Texas opens on September 27 at Fair Park and runs through October 20. In addition to Barnyard Radler, beer flights featuring Franconia Kölsch, Lager and Oktoberfest will be offered during the event at Trio on the Green and the Lone Star Roadhouse.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Rabbit Hole ending its run in Justin

Image credit: Rabbit Hole Brewing.

After more than five years in business, Rabbit Hole Brewing has announced it will close its doors in Justin.

Rabbit Hole debuted in December 2013, bringing with it a unique branding approach centered on author Lewis Carroll and his book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Beer names like Dark Snark, JabberBock, JubJub, and Off With Your Red played up the theme, drawing inspiration from Alice  and Carroll's other works, Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark.

The company was also well-known for its partnership with hockey Hall of Famer and former Dallas Star, Mike Modano. One of Rabbit Hole's original beers, Mike Modano's 561 Kölsch-style beer, paid tribute to Modano's career goal total, a number which stands as the current record for American-born players in the National Hockey League (NHL).

As for your chance to raise a final toast to Rabbit Hole, a message on the brewery's website indicates it will remain open through the next two weekends, with taproom hours September 6-7 and September 13-14.