Thursday, November 21, 2019

Deep Ellum, Rahr & Sons recognized at 2019 European Beer Star competition

Image credit: Private Brauereien.

Two local breweries have been honored with awards at the 2019 European Beer Star competition. The event took place earlier this month, with winners announced during a ceremony in Nuremberg, Germany, on November 13.

Now in its 16th year, the European Beer Star event bills itself as "one of the hardest beer competitions in the world." Entries are accepted from breweries around the globe, but submissions are limited to styles of European origin.

This year, a total of 2,483 beers from 47 countries were judged by an international panel, with prizes handed out in 67 different categories. North Texas winners are listed below, and it's worth noting that both beers have scored similar wins in the past. To see additional results, click here for a complete list of winners.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Dallas
  • Silver for Local Legend in the Sweet Stout/Milk Stout category (2017, 2019).
  • Silver for Regulator in the German-Style Dunkler Doppelbock category (2018, 2019).

Cheers and congratulations to Deep Ellum and Rahr & Sons!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Small Brewpub closing in Oak Cliff

Image credit: Small Brewpub.

Opting not to renew its lease, Small Brewpub of Dallas has announced it will close on the occasion of its fifth anniversary.

Debuting in December 2014, Small Brewpub was part of a redevelopment effort along Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff. Originally, the spot attracted the foodie crowd in addition to local beer lovers, based on unique culinary offerings created by chef Misti Norris. So much so, in fact, Bon Appétit  magazine included Small Brewpub on a list of 50 nominees for its 2015 survey of America's Best New Restaurants.

The overall approach changed, however, after ownership shifted gears in the summer of 2016. Hoping to appeal to a wider audience, Small Brewpub parted ways with Norris and adopted a simpler, more approachable menu in line with traditional pub fare.

With regard to the brewing operation, Black Pepper Pils was probably Small Brewpub's most well-known beer, but also notable was the brewpub's work with gypsy brewer Barrett Tillman of Black Man Brewing. Collaborations with Tillman began in 2015, having continued on through present day.

As for the when the closure becomes official, the final service at Small Brewpub is set for Saturday, December 7.

Monday, November 18, 2019

A winter IPA renewed and a decadent debut to come from Lakewood

Images courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co

Adding to its popular Seduction Series, Lakewood Brewing Co. (LBC) of Garland is set to introduce Salted Caramel Temptress.

The Seduction Series takes Lakewood's best-selling Temptress Imperial Milk Stout and infuses it with different flavors. Past iterations have included Peanut Butter Temptress, Raspberry Temptress, French Quarter Temptress and Coconut Temptress.

“We’re always pushing the boundaries and making some 'Seriously Fun Beer' here at LBC,” says Wim Bens, founder and president of Lakewood. “This time of year calls for a decadent beer and Salted Caramel Temptress checks all the boxes. We loaded her up with a punch of extra vanilla and lots of salted caramel flavor and aroma. And we’re super excited to share it with our fans!”

Look for Salted Caramel Temptress on draft and in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles starting in December.

Also on the way, Cold Front IPA is making a late fall return. It's said to be the beer perfect for sitting around the fire pit or enjoying the crisp air out on the patio with friends.

“Last year’s debut of Cold Front IPA flew off the shelves,” says Bens. “So this year we made plenty to make it through to Spring.”

Cold Front IPA will be available on draft and in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles from November through March.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Temptress with a touch of Jack is back

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland has announced the return of Tennessee Temptress, a beer inspired by iconic whiskey-maker, Jack Daniel's.

The inaugural vintage of Tennessee Temptress debuted in in June 2018, after Lakewood was invited to collaborate with the Tennessee distiller. As for the 2019 edition, this barrel-aged version of the brewery's popular Temptress Imperial Milk Stout has been resting in spent Jack Daniel's barrels for most of a year, and is now ready to be shared with the world.

“I can’t wait to release Tennessee Temptress again,” says Wim Bens, founder of Lakewood. “Once the barrels are blended, we add sweet cherries from Oregon to the final blend to make it unlike any other Temptress you’ve ever had.”

A draft-only offering, Tennessee Temptress will be available for a very limited time starting in mid-November. Check the beerfinder at for locations.

Friday, November 8, 2019

On the hype of Hornindal (and others), a kveik Q&A with On Rotation

Image courtesy of On Rotation.

Earlier this week, I posted a piece on kveik, a family of farmhouse yeast strains originating in Norway. Entitled Brewers harnessing Norwegian beast of a yeast, the article acts as an intro to kveik, hitting the highlights on what makes the yeast special, and also calling attention to the growing list of local breweries exploring its use.

The mysteries of kveik were first brought to light by Lars Marius Garshol, a beer enthusiast living outside of Oslo. On his blog, Garshol extols the virtues of kveik, summarizing practical aspects as well as outlining flavor profiles obtainable across known strains.

Of particular interest to brewers, kveik yeasts ferment quickly at high temperatures, leaving no off flavors. Not only that, some strains are highly flocculant, resulting in finished beers being ready to drink sooner. Combined, these characteristics suggest kveik can reduce turnaround time and boost production, while allowing breweries to be more energy efficient thanks to less reliance on temperature control.

As they say, though, the proof is in the pudding...or, in this case, the yeast slurry. So, to find out how well kveik performs in practice, I contacted Jacob Sloan, co-founder of the craft beer laboratory On Rotation. The Dallas-based brewery has tested four different strains of kveik to date, and from those experiments Sloan shared insights into how using the yeast has impacted production at On Rotation, along with thoughts on ester formation, its influence on flavor and more.

Q: What initially led you to explore using kveik in your beers at On Rotation? Were you interested in the practical aspects, the taste elements, or both?

JS: I'd say it was really both for us. We've always been big fans of high-performing, saison yeast strains, and we gravitate towards dry finishes in our brews. Kveik beers are prone to dry, wine-like finishes, so those characteristics definitely align with our tastes in designing recipes. We like throwing aggressive yeast strains at complex flavor profiles and seeing what we get as an end result.

Q: The performance characteristics of kveik, specifically its ability to ferment quickly and cleanly at high temperatures, have gotten a lot of attention. How do you see these traits impacting a small-batch operation like On Rotation from the production side?

JS: As a small batch brewery with limited tank space for fermentation, the quick-turn nature and ability to ferment without temperature control is, of course, appealing. Not having to ferment with our existing tanks that control temperature means we can produce these beers outside of our process limitations as a way to increase our overall brewery volume.

Q: Profiles for commercial kveik strains list citrus, stone and tropical fruit as predominant flavor elements, which I imagine is why many brewers are using them in IPAs. Is that style the sweet spot for kveik, or is the yeast a fit for other types of beers?

JS: The strains themselves vary in intensity. We've now brewed with four different strains, and a few of them definitely produce strong tropical fruit and citrusy flavor notes. Others are less pronounced, and may err more on the side of "candy" fruit flavors. That said, I think the flavor profiles and esters imparted by the kveik strains are worth experiencing regardless of what beer styles you typically choose to drink. While we've mostly done IPAs to date, that wasn't our intention. We just had a few IPAs in our schedule that we fast-tracked with the kveik strains.

Q: Using your IPAs as an example, how did kveik affect the presentation of those beers?

JS: With Heimdall's Vision and Last Stand of the Warriors Three, we split tested on the same IPA batch and same dry hop additions across two kveik strains to see the differences the yeast would provide.

We fermented Heimdall's Vision with Hornindal kveik yeast. This Norwegian farmstead strain is known for bringing out intense tropical notes of fresh pineapple, mango and tangerine, while adding an extra dimension to fruit-forward hops.

Last Stand of the Warriors Three, by contrast, fermented on Voss kveik yeast, another aggressive Norwegian strain with an entirely different flavor profile. Voss brings out more of a clean, orange-citrus profile, but it similarly emphasizes fruit-forward hops.

Both of these beers feature Citra, Pacifica, and Huell Melon hops, but the way the hops come through in the finished product has been heavily influenced by the yeasts, especially the way they reacted to identical double dry hop additions of Pacifica and Huell Melon. One of the two definitely came through more prominent and tropical.

Q: That brings up a point discussed on Garshol's blog. He says to avoid using too many "craft" hops, because they could mask the flavors of kveik. What's your take? Have you had to alter your hop bills compared to what you might normally use in similar recipes?

JS: I wouldn't say we're reducing our hop usage in these beers, but we are factoring in the expected flavor profile of the yeast when we build out hop schedules. I do agree it's definitely something you have to account for as you brew. If you just throw an overwhelming amount of hops into a beer and don't account for the notes of the yeast, you're missing out on embracing kveik's unique characteristics.

Q: Now, earlier you talked a little about how kveik delivers on the promise of a production boost. Looking at it in terms of the finished product, how would you evaluate the yeast's flavor enhancement capabilities?  Do kveik strains live up to the hype from that perspective?

JS: There are many strains of what I'd call traditional yeast that promise interesting flavor outcomes, esters and notes. Few of those truly pay off in every execution, but what we've seen with our experimentation with these kveik yeast strains is that they live up to expectations.

Q. I mentioned before how a lot of breweries have led out with IPAs when using kveik, but as brewers explore its use beyond craft beer's most popular style, what is it about kveik that should pique the interest of consumers going forward?

JS: Beer drinkers should be excited because I see these strains leading to more experimentation in craft brewery settings given their lack of practical limitations. I am always a fan of encouraging more experimentation and exploration in brewing and craft beer as a way of continuing to appeal to the large population of folks who haven't jumped into craft offerings yet.

Q: On that note, what's next at On Rotation? Are there more kveik beers to come?
JS: We absolutely plan on continuing to produce kveik beers. We'd like to explore more use in our favorite style beer style, saison, as we get more in the queue. In the short term, we're testing every strain we can get our hands on to determine which we like for different use cases and recipes.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Inaugural Delta Allen Craft Beer & Spirits Festival set for February

Image credit: Benchmark Global Hospitality.

A new craft beer event is coming to North Texas, with the announcement of the first annual Delta Allen Craft Beer & Spirits Festival. Benefitting Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Lone Star – Greater Dallas, the festival will take place on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at Delta Hotels by Marriott Dallas Allen.

“We are so excited to bring this event to Dallas-Fort Worth, Allen and the Delta Hotels by Marriott Dallas Allen, says Stacy Martin, managing director. “Our management company, Benchmark Global Hospitality, supports Big Brothers Big Sisters nationally. I was fortunately enough to work with BBBS in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to create The Heldrich Craft Beer and Spirits Festival, now in its fourth year, and I know that we will see great participation from Collin County and look forward to producing this event for years to come.”

In addition to beer and spirit offerings, the festivities will feature live music, local vendors and food curated by Executive Chef Stuart Race of Stampede66 by Stephen Pyles. Allen Mayor Stephen Terrell will also be present to emcee the beginning of the festival, during a ceremony with Nine Band Brewing Co.

Tickets for the event are $40 for general admission, or $50 for a VIP level which includes early entry and hors d'oeuvres served during a VIP reception. All attendees will receive commemorative glassware and have access to food and beverage options, as well as live music (click here to purchase tickets through Eventbrite).

Also of note, Delta Hotels by Marriott Dallas Allen is offering a special rate to attendees. If two tickets are purchased to the Delta Allen Craft Beer & Spirits Festival, guests can secure a room for $89 and overnight parking for $10. To book this rate, call 469-675-0804.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Assessing the early impact of beer to go

Image credits: Peticolas Brewing Co., Tupps Brewery.

At 10 a.m. on Sunday, September 1, a new era began in Texas as manufacturing breweries began selling beer to go for the first time. The right to do so was granted by a new law passed during the 2019 legislative session, this occurring after over a decade of lobbying efforts by industry representatives.

More than 25 breweries in North Texas were affected by the change, which promises to provide an additional revenue stream for these small businesses. The creation of new jobs was also anticipated, something evidenced by the expansion of taproom hours at some North Texas breweries.

As for the initial impact of beer to go, anticipation was high at places like Peticolas Brewing Co. in Dallas, where founder Michael Peticolas and crew packaged local favorite Velvet Hammer for the first time.

"Our can launch absolutely exceeded expectations," says Peticolas. "We blew away our sales projections and ran out of cans prior to our second canning run. And, taproom traffic has increased with beer to go. Those swinging in to purchase beer to go oftentimes grab a pint, and those grabbing a pint oftentimes purchase beer to go. It's been a big win for our taproom."

Early returns were also "EPIC!" at Tupps Brewery in McKinney, according to marketing and events coordinator, Katie Baker. There, the brewery celebrated the advent of beer to go by bringing back its immensely popular DDH IPA Series 2.

"September was an incredible month for us out of the taproom because of the support we received from beer to go," says Baker. "It was great seeing people walking out of the taproom with a six-pack in their hands."

A few weeks later, both breweries report it’s business as usual, with no real changes to production or distribution due to beer to go. The distribution question is a common one for Peticolas, but for those wondering, canned beers will remain a brewery exclusive for the foreseeable future.

"Cans in retail locations will happen, but not any time soon," says Peticolas. "We'll pull that trigger to spur growth as needed. Remember, we choose to grow properly, not quickly."

Regardless of what formats are available inside or outside the taproom, being mindful of the relationship retail plays in the overall success of the industry has been and will continue to be an important part of the process for all breweries from here on out.

"Our retail and distribution partners are our life blood," says Baker. "We price our beer in the taproom at what we feel is the market average, because the relationship we have with our retailers and distributors is crucial. It’s immensely important to us to keep those partnerships as positive and productive as possible."

As for whether the beer to go boost is sustainable long-term, that's a story still left to be told.

"We are curious to see how it holds up now that the initial excitement has worn off," adds Baker. "That said, there is still a steady flow of traffic coming to the brewery for the sole purpose of buying beer not found in the market, so we’ll continue working on taproom-only releases to keep things as exciting as possible."

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the October 31, 2019 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Brewers harnessing Norwegian beast of a yeast

Seven Serpent from Armadillo Ale Works is one of many North Texas beers
fermented with a kveik yeast strain (Photo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Local brewers are calling it a beast. It's fast, it's furious, and it has to potential to change the way local breweries make beer.

The subject is kveik, a family of Norwegian yeast cultures that seems otherworldly - especially in light of how it ferments beer unlike other yeasts in popular use today. And yet, it is of this earth. It's just that kveik's powers have only recently been revealed to modern brewers. This, after it was handed down for generations among homebrewers in Norway.

Among its abilities, kveik is a fast-starting yeast that ferments quickly and cleanly at high temperatures.

"I think the ideal temperature for most kveik is around 95 degrees Fahrenheit," says Bobby Mullins, head brewer and co-founder of Armadillo Ale Works. "It can fully ferment an imperial beer in three days with no off flavors."

Kveik settles out quickly as well, reducing maturation times and making beer ready to drink sooner.

So, what does this all mean? Simply put, kveik is capable of speeding up production while expending less energy, since temperature control (even in Texas!) is not as critical given the yeast's wide functional range - anywhere from 62 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit depending on strain (sources: Omega Yeast, White Labs).

Shifting to a consumer point of view, what's interesting about kveik is how its ester profile fits the industry's most popular style of beer. Commercially available strains feature a variety of citrus, stone and tropical fruit flavors. For that reason, consumers are likely to see kveik pop up in India pale ales (IPAs). In fact, IPAs fermented with kveik have already appeared on tap at Brutal Beerworks, On Rotation and TKO Libations.

"We've got it scheduled for all future versions of our hazy IPA, You Like the Juice," says Ty Sefton, co-founder at TKO Libations. "With kveik, the citrus notes from the hops we use burst out at you compared to yeast strains we've used in the past. And, the haze stays."

Kveik has also been used in a blonde ale at Bluffview Growler, a barleywine at Hemisphere Brewing Co., and in Berliner weisse beers at Celestial Beerworks. The yeast's understated flavor elements make stouts fair game as well, with New Main Brewing Co. and Cedar Creek Brewery among those who have explored the dark side with kveik.

"Every big stout you see from us in the future will probably be made with kveik," says Aaron Eudaly, head brewer at Cedar Creek. "The fermentation speed is a big reason, but it also has a very high alcohol tolerance. It's probably the heartiest strain of yeast I have personally worked with."

Other local examples exist, and there are surely more to come. BrainDead Brewing has experimented with kveik, and Hop & Sting Brewing Co. plans to brew a honey tripel with it later this year. Plus, kveik is already on the radar at Rollertown Beerworks, a new brewery set to open in Celina in early 2020.

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the October 31, 2019 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

How breweries are broadening the reach with more beverage options

Image credits: Peticolas Brewing Co. (top left), Brutal Beerworks (top right),
The Collective Brewing Project (bottom left, bottom right).

Visiting a brewery in North Texas isn't just about drinking your everyday beer, as taprooms tend to offer alternatives appealing to a wide range of tastes. In many cases, breweries supplement their menus by bringing in guest taps, craft sodas, wine or cider options. Some, though, are finding ways to get creative with products made in-house.

Whether it's efforts to pique the interest of a different kind of drinker or simply a matter of trying something new and fun, here are three ways local breweries are branching out with hand-crafted products meant to enhance the taproom experience, and make it a welcoming environment for all.

Cocktail Beers

Ever innovative, Peticolas Brewing Co. of Dallas seized upon a void in the local market and introduced its first "cocktail beer" in late 2017. According to founder Michael Peticolas, quality cocktail beers sampled at breweries around the country provided the inspiration to produce Grin & Tonic, modeled after a gin and tonic, and later The Usual, an homage to the Old Fashioned.

"Cocktail beers provide us the opportunity to spread our wings and try something new, unique and different," says Peticolas. “And, cocktail beers excite consumers. We've reached a point where classic styles simply don't excite the vocal minority of craft beer drinkers, but they still go crazy over new and innovative styles."

Cold Creations

Hot days call for cool and refreshing drinks, and while a cold beer can certainly hit the spot, some local breweries are employing devices that turn house brews into frozen treats.

In Fort Worth, The Collective Brewing Project has been crafting beer slushees with simple syrups using herbs, spices and real fruit to accentuate and balance certain flavors in their brews.

"We saw the slushee machine as a way to implement new flavors and provide refreshment for those incredibly hot days," says Dave Riddile, who handles sales and marketing at Collective. "Since most of us have culinary or bartending backgrounds, it's a natural fit to want to experiment with beer as an ingredient. The slushee machine was definitely born out of fun, but it has been a way for us to be creative outside the brewhouse as well."

Cold creations of a different sort are on the menu at Brutal Beerworks in North Richland Hills. The company's Fro-Beer machine freezes beer and fashions it into a soft serve-like frozen head that acts as a "topper" for the beer your drinking.

Hard Seltzer

The Collective Brewing Project was also one of the first North Texas breweries to add a house-made hard seltzer to its lineup. Made from fermented sugar, hard seltzers check boxes for drinkers seeking a lower calorie, low carb option. Moreover, these drinks are a gluten-free alternative.

"After some research and our first test batch, we were satisfied hard seltzers could be a great option we wouldn't have to outsource like we do with our wine and cider list," says Riddile.

Others hopping on the hard seltzer bandwagon include Dallas-based breweries, Deep Ellum Brewing Co. and Texas Ale Project.

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the October 31, 2019 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A North Texas craft beer state of the union - 2019 edition

Image credit: Brewers Association.

Since late 2011, the refrain has remained the same - the North Texas beer scene is booming. Breweries continue to open, and more are on the way, suggesting the surge hasn't stopped and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The starting point of the boom dates back to the debut of Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in November 2011. When Deep Ellum arrived, it was the first locally-owned brewery to open in Dallas since 1998. And, at the time, there were only eight active brewing operations in the entire region.

Today, North Texas is home to over 80 brewing companies, with the jump here an extension of a national trend where brewery numbers in the U.S. have increased from around 2000 eight years ago to 7,346 in 2018. Local growth rates are greater, but given where the industry started, North Texas had nowhere to go but up.

Still, Texas as a whole ranks 46th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for number of breweries per capita, with 1.4 breweries per 100,000 adults 21 years of age or older (source: Brewers Association). Numbers are similar for Dallas-Fort Worth specifically, but things should improve locally based on 40 or so new ventures working to open in the near future.

Despite the per capita gap, state rankings are higher if you consider the amount of beer made in Texas and its economic impact. According to the Brewers Association, over 1.1 million barrels of beer were produced in Texas during 2018, the eighth highest total in the country. Even more impressive, the state's craft brewing industry contributed nearly $5.1 billion to the U.S. economy last year, trailing only California and Pennsylvania.

One thing lagging, however, is the size of the local customer base compared to other markets. Texans love their light beer, and it shows in certain metrics. Using U.S. Census Bureau statistics, along with data taken by Scarborough (a division of Nielsen) during 2016 and 2017, an estimated 5.7% of the over 21 population in Dallas-Fort Worth drinks craft beer on a regular basis. That trails the national average of 7.3%.

Consequently, while craft beer is big business in Texas, it could be even bigger. Getting more people into craft beer has been a priority from day one, and it will remain important as the number of breweries in North Texas nears the century mark.

If that milestone occurs, what happens next is anybody's guess. Will the market support over 100 breweries, or will a tipping point be reached? The general belief is consumers will continue to support local breweries as long as quality and customer service don't falter. Differentiation and the taproom experience are factors as well, especially as the playing field gets more crowded.

Either way, for now it appears North Texas will keep setting records for the number of breweries within its borders. That's great for consumers wanting additional options for drinking local in Dallas-Fort Worth, but it ups the ante in an already challenging market for local breweries. Indeed, how those breweries respond will go a long way towards determining the health of the North Texas brewing industry going forward.

Originally published as part of a special section on NTX Beer Week in the October 31, 2019 edition of the Dallas Observer. An online copy of the complete newspaper is available by clicking here.