Tuesday, June 30, 2020

House beers now pouring at Craft and Growler

Craft & Growler's debut house beer, One and a Half Years Later,
is available on tap and in crowlers (
© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

The name of the beer says it all. Craft and Growler's initial offering, One and a Half Years Later, is an IPA that recalls the length of time it took for the Dallas growler shop to get its in-house brewing project underway.

Equipment for the initiative has been onsite since May 2019, but the first production brew day didn't occur until late last month. Craft and Growler's brewer, Brendan Smith, fired up the kettle on May 23, with the startup recipe chosen to be a SMaSH IPA. Brewed with two-row pale malt and Cascade hops, the resulting beer is nicely balanced, with a flowery aroma, citrus flavors and a mildly bitter bite.

One and a Half Years Later is also crystal clear, its clarity appearing as a stark contrast to the current wave of hazy IPAs. And while hazy beers are surely a hot commodity, choosing to do a SMaSH IPA was more about differentiating from another type of beer commonly produced when breweries are starting out.

"I didn't want to do just a blonde as a test batch as many seem to do," says Smith. "So, I figured why not spend a bit more on hops and make it a SMaSH?"

As for future style selections, Smith is working on a hefeweizen, with a hazy pale ale, gose and fruited Berliner weisse in the plans as well. In addition, Craft and Growler's SMaSH IPA is set to return, with subsequent hop varieties chosen by way of customer feedback. The overall goal, of course, is to build up a stable of originals to supplement the shop's everyday product mix.

"Eventually, as we get the system dialed in and perfect our process, we'd like to have four-to-six house beers on at any one time," says Smith.

Another notable aspect of Craft and Growler's journey to this point is how it was able to lean on industry relationships built since opening in 2012. Smith singled out no fewer than nine local brewers who provided advice and encouragement during the process of getting the shop's brewhouse ready for use.

Along those lines, it's no surprise to learn that collaborations with area brewers are also on the agenda at Craft and Growler.

"We are in talks to do collabs with Celestial Beerworks and 903 Brewers," adds Smith, "but others have expressed interest in working with us and we'll be happy to work with anyone."

With that, Craft and Growler takes its place as an active North Texas brewing operation. It may have taken one and a half years to get here, but those pitching in to help proved once again the community of craft beer is alive and well.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Deep Ellum closes Funkytown Fermatorium

Image credit: Deep Ellum Brewing Co.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas, a member of the CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective,  has announced the permanent closure of its Funkytown Fermatorium in Fort Worth.

The company's Funkytown Fermatorium opened in March 2019, providing Deep Ellum with a westside Metroplex location apart from its original facility near Downtown Dallas. The outpost featured a full onsite kitchen, along with a small-batch brewhouse producing exclusive recipes for local Panther City patrons.

In a Facebook post, Deep Ellum cited "the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," as well as its "inability to serve beer to-go due to Texas House Bill 3287," as factors in the decision.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Ash & Ember brings first brewery to Cedar Hill

All photos: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Pandemic or not, the roster of North Texas breweries continues to grow, as evidenced by this weekend's opening of Ash & Ember Brewing in the City of Cedar Hill.

Located just off U.S. 67 at 226 Texas St., Ash & Ember is the first brewery in Cedar Hill. Its facility sits a fair distance away from other like businesses, with no other breweries existing within a 10-mile radius. This, according to co-founder Brian Krajcirovic, played a role in site selection as he and business partner, Timothy Martin, were deciding on where to establish the enterprise.

Now up and running, Ash & Ember occupies a 5000 square foot building. Currently, the company is utilizing about half of the space for its taproom and production areas, with the rest reserved for the possible addition of a lounge-like room in the future.

For production, Ash & Ember employs a five-barrel brewing system and four 10-barrel
fermenters. Beer names call attention to points of interest around the City of Cedar Hill.

As for the here and now, Ash & Ember's opening day offerings were Lumber Yard Lager, High Pointe Porter and Tower Red IPA. All were easy-drinking styles of moderate strength, and such characteristics will be the norm for most brews produced onsite. Bigger beers will occasionally appear, but the focus at Ash & Ember is on making what Krajcirovic refers to as "beers for the beer drinker."

In terms of the brewery's overall portfolio, Krajcirovic says recipes will rotate. At a minimum, though, patrons can expect Ash & Ember's tap wall to feature a light beer, something dark and an IPA on a typical day, with future selections to include a German-style hefeweizen and a Scottish wee heavy.

Once the pandemic passes, taproom hours will take place on Fridays at Ash & Ember, with tour packages set for Saturdays, and to-go only service available Tuesday through Thursday. Of course, for now it's to-go only all the time, so stay tuned to social media (FacebookInstagram) for updates on operations at the area's newest brewery.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Funky Picnic goes big with Greg's Big Honey Lager

Image: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Funky Picnic Brewery & Café
represents the latest entity to access the rolodex of recipes created by local homebrewer Greg Etzel, with the Fort Worth brewpub set to tap its contribution to the series of beers honoring his memory later this week.

Greg's Big Honey Lager, an imperial honey lager boasting an ABV of 11%, will debut at Funky Picnic this Thursday, June 25. Like previous memorial beers, proceeds from sales will benefit charities chosen by the Etzel family, including ACH Child & Family Services, Direct Relief (Covid-19 Relief)Team Conner Childhood Cancer Foundation and Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation.

"We decided to pick the honey lager because it allowed us to brew a unique and big beer, much like Greg himself," says Collin Zreet, co-founder of Funky Picnic.

According to Zreet, those at the brewpub had never tried the beer, so they relied on the recommendation of friend, fellow homebrewer and organizer of the tribute series, Nigel Curtis. And, it seems everyone is pleased with the choice, considering Funky Picnic plans to enter Greg's Big Honey Lager in the National Honey Board's 2020 Honey Beer Competition.

As for how Funky Picnic approached its interpretation of the recipe, the commercial description for Greg's Big Honey Lager says it all:

"A tribute to Greg. His recipe, his idea, we just tried to do it justice. An 11% lager with generous amounts of honey and citrus aroma, and a clean, sharp finish.

"Drink it for Greg."

Friday, June 5, 2020

Weathered Souls recruiting brewers for Black is Beautiful campaign

Image credit: Weathered Souls Brewing Co./KD Designs.

Weathered Souls Brewing Co. of San Antonio is asking breweries worldwide to raise a glass in unison by participating in a collaborative effort meant to "raise awareness for injustices people of color face daily."

Over 970 breweries have joined the Black is Beautiful initiative, each pledging a commitment to the long-term work of equality, while also donating 100% of proceeds from sales of a collaboration beer to organizations in their own communities supporting police brutality reform and legal defense funds for those who have been wronged.

As for the beer, Weathered Souls is providing the base recipe for an imperial stout, this type of beer chosen "to showcase the different shades of black." Participating breweries are encouraged to put their own spin on the beer, as well as the label art, which has space left over for breweries to add their logo. Labels for the project have been created by KD Designs, with The Creative Mango offering discounts to all who use their services for printing.

A list of North Texas breweries involved in the project follows, along with notations of chosen beneficiaries where available (many are still working out details, so updates will follow).

903 Brewers, Sherman
  • Beneficiary: Michael Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling, an organization funding technical education and career advancement for black, indigenous and people of color in the brewing and distilling industries.
  • Recipe spin: Oak-aged on coffee beans, vanilla beans and cacao nibs.
  • Availability: Early August.
Armadillo Ale Works, Denton
Brutal Beerworks, North Richland Hills
  • Beneficiary: Big Thought, a group closing the opportunity gap by equipping youth in marginalized communities with the skills and tools they need to imagine and create their best lives and a better world.
  • Recipe spin: Kindred Coffee Espresso Blend, Hershey's Chocolate Syrup and coconut.
  • Availability: Early August.
  • Beneficiary: The Innocence Project, an organization that works to exonerate the wrongly-convicted through DNA testing, and to bring reform to the justice system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.
  • Recipe spin: Vanilla beans.
  • Availability: Late June.
  • Recipe spin: Straight forward imperial stout.
  • Availability: Late July.
Division Brewing, Arlington
  • Beneficiary: National Cares Mentoring Movement, a group dedicated to alleviating inter-generational poverty among African Americans.
  • Recipe spin: Peanut butter.
  • Availability: Early September.
False Idol Brewing, North Richland Hills
  • Beneficiary: Mothers Against Police Brutality, a multi-racial coalition fighting for civil rights, police accountability and policy reform.
  • Recipe spin: Maple and marshmallows.
  • Availability: Early July.
  • Beneficiary: Big Thought, a group equipping youth in marginalized communities with the skills and tools they need to imagine and create their best lives and a better world.
  • Availability: Mid-June.
  • Beneficiary: Tarrant County Community Bail Fund, a campaign by United Fort Worth to raise funds for those not convicted of a crime, but who remain incarcerated because they can't afford bail.
  • Recipe spin: Black cherries and Belgian yeast.
  • Availability: Early July.
  • Beneficiary: Beersgiving, an organization advocating for diversity in the brewing industry.
  • Recipe spin: Black cake.
  • Availability: Late July.
  • Recipe spin: Maple and vanilla.
  • Availability: Early July.
  • Beneficiary: NAACP - Dallas, an organization whose mission is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons, and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
  • Recipe spin: Hazelnuts.
  • Availability: Mid-July.
  • Beneficiary: Know Your Rights Camp, a campaign for youth to raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment and interacting with law enforcement.
  • Beneficiary: Mothers Against Police Brutality, a multi-racial coalition fighting for civil rights, police accountability and policy reform.
  • Recipe spin: Black Coffee Poly Blend and Madagascar vanilla beans.
  • Availability: Late July. 
Odd Muse Brewing Co., Farmers Branch
  • Beneficiary: Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT), an organization whose mission is to create a radically inclusive city by addressing race and racism through narrative change, relationship building and equitable policies and practices.
  • Availability: Mid-July.
On Rotation, Dallas
  • Beneficiary: $8CantWait, a project by Campaign Zero designed to drive eight policies proven to decrease police violence by 72%.
  • Recipe spin: Chocolate and cookie dough.
  • Availability: Mid-July.
  • Beneficiary: Know Your Rights Camp, a campaign for youth to raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment and interacting with law enforcement.
  • Recipe spin: Marshmallows and cacao nibs.
  • Availability: Mid-July.
Vector Brewing, Dallas
  • Beneficiary: Dallas Black Dance Theatre, an organization whose mission is to create and produce contemporary modern dance performances and educational programs that reach diverse communities.
  • Availability: Late summer.

For more on the #BlackIsBeautifulBeer collaboration, visit the initiative's website at https://blackisbeautiful.beer/.