Thursday, December 31, 2020

Tupps unveils Blur's first seasonal hard seltzer

Image courtesy of Tupps Brewery.

Tupps Brewery of McKinney is closing out 2020 with the release of a new Blur hard seltzer designed to pair well with New Year's Eve activities.

“We thought it would be fun to craft a Champagne-flavored seltzer specifically to celebrate the New Year," says Chris Lewis, head brewer at Tupps/Blur. "This seltzer is full of bubbles, fruit-forward aroma and it finishes with a touch of Champagne flavor. It’s easy-drinking, low in sugar and low in calories. I’m pretty sure we are all ready for a fresh start in 2021 and here’s the perfect drink to bring to your New Year’s celebrations."

Tupps debuted the Blur brand with a variety pack of fruit infusions in September 2020. Champagne Bubbles is a seasonal seltzer, being the first one to hit the market.

“In 2021, we plan to launch seasonal hard seltzers all throughout the year," says Chase Lewis, sales and finance vice president of Tupps/Blur. "You will see some creative and delicious flavors from us that align with the season and even some holidays.”

Blur Champagne Bubbles is available now in six-packs of 12-ounce cans at retailers in Dallas-Fort Worth. Click here to find a location near you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 Year in review: Area breweries persevere through the pandemic

All logos and graphics the property of their respective owners.

Ah 2020, it's been a helluva year hasn't it? And not in such a way that you could describe it as a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. While positive things happened in the beer industry this past year, no discussion of 2020 should ever start with the word "good." In my mind, 2020 has been more a mix of the bad, the ugly and the fugly.

Naturally, the pandemic is primarily to blame. This unseen enemy rose up to invade our lives, and for many it has resulted in lost wages, lost fortunes or worse. The only real ray of light is the dire predictions of mass closures put out by the Brewers Association and others have thus far not come to pass.

Now, there have certainly been challenges. Brewers fought through various mandates and shutdowns in 2020, forcing them to pivot and modify daily operations just to stay afloat. Can you imagine what the state of the industry would be like if beer to-go was still a no-go? Had it not been legalized in 2019, this year in review piece would have surely taken a darker tone.

Leveraging beer to-go, online orders and curbside pickup became a part of everyday life, with some breweries packaging their products for the first time to make it happen. With bars and restaurants closed, this created a bridge for breweries to maintain a revenue stream until draft accounts were allowed to re-open.

Restaurants were first to resume service at limited capacity, but bars and taprooms were held back unless they sold a certain percentage of food. Because, of course, the presence of a pub pretzel at your table is going to keep you from catching the plague.

Applications for food and beverage certificates soon followed, converting breweries into "restaurants" in the eyes of the auditors. Except there was still the matter of making sure you were selling more food, merchandise, or literally anything else besides beer.

Somehow, though, breweries persevered while weathering the pandemic amid the tangle of regulations and red tape. In fact, there turned out to be quite a bit more news to cover here than I expected, with talk of expansions, changes at the top of one of the area's oldest breweries, and serious legal issues at one spot adding to the regular roundup of openings and closings, brand debuts, buzzy beers and more.

So, without further ado, let's say sayonara to 2020 with the annual summary of local industry activity, followed by the customary highlights from the North Texas year in beer.

The Business of Beer

Surveying notable business moves in 2020, three brewing companies expanded operations by opening satellite locations. Revolver Brewing of Granbury added an Arlington outpost in the form of BLD5 at Texas Live in Arlington, while Wild Acre Brewing Co. and Pegasus City Brewery kept to their home cities with the establishment of Wild Acre Camp Bowie in Fort Worth and Pegasus City Downtown Dallas, respectively.

Looking to expand in the future, four area breweries put plans in motion for the construction of new facilities. These include Tupps Brewery of McKinney, Fort Brewery & Pizza of Fort Worth, On Rotation of Dallas and Community Beer Co. of Dallas. Of these, all but the latter project have been formally announced.

Another, Woodcreek Brewing Co., closed its Rockwall facility in June, citing plans to transition to a new location. However, as of now, there is nothing new to report on that particular front.

Elsewhere, an ownership change occurred quietly at Franconia Brewing Co. of McKinney, after founder Dennis Wehrmann divested his interest in the firm during 2020. Now heading operations is Arvind Sharma, who represents the company as President and CEO.

Also in McKinney, Harvest Seasonal Kitchen made the decision to cease brewing operations once the pandemic hit earlier this year. The restaurant remains open, but there are no plans to resume brewing in the future.

The pandemic impacted Bluffview Growler in Dallas as well, as the shop discontinued in-house brewing to make room for an onsite kitchen allowing them to re-open as a "restaurant."

Finally, questions surround the status of Nine Band Brewing Co. of Allen, after the company's owner was charged with a series of crimes. Nine Band's online presence has gone dark, and a partnership with Osage Casinos in Oklahoma is set to be dissolved.

As for an overall economic picture of the brewing industry in Texas, data from the Brewers Association for 2019 shows the state ranking eighth in production, with 1.18 million barrels of beer produced, and third in economic impact, contributing nearly $5.4 billion to the U.S. economy. These amounts are slightly higher compared to the 2018 survey, with the relative rankings staying the same.

Image: Brewers Association.

Comings and Goings

The pandemic didn't appear to limit growth in 2020, at least in terms of the total amount of brewing operations, but the local landscape has surely grown more complicated.

A half-dozen locales currently fall into the category of temporary closures. Two of these are due to new facilities being built by On Rotation of Dallas and Thirsty Bro Brewing of Royse City. As alluded to up above, however, uncertainty surrounds others in this group, meaning the brewery count for the close of 2020 is subject to change.

That said, summing up what we know, the number of brewing operations in North Texas presently stands at 86. Add in side projects, while lowering the number to account for breweries with multiple locations, and you find there are 83 different brands of local beer to choose from in the market. 

  • Ash & Ember Brewing, Cedar Hill.
  • Beard Science Sour House, The Colony.
  • Big Spray Brewing, Princeton.
  • Cork & Brew, Commerce.
  • Craft and Growler, Dallas (added brewing operations).
  • Maple Branch Craft Brewery, Fort Worth.
  • Pathfinder Brewing, Hudson Oaks.
  • Pegasus City Downtown, Dallas (second location).
  • Revolver BLDG 5, Arlington (second location).
  • Rollertown Beerworks, Celina.
  • Vector Brewing, Dallas.
  • Wild Acre Camp Bowie, Fort Worth (second location).

Brand Debuts:
  • Happy Hippie Brewing Co. - alternating proprietorship with Hop & Sting Brewing Co. of Grapevine.
  • Motorboat Brewing Co. - alternating proprietorship with Hop & Sting Brewing Co. of Grapevine.
  • Symbol Brewing Co. - side project of 3 Nations Brewing Co. of Carrollton (not counted as a new opening).

New Locations (not counted as new openings):
  • Edgewise Eight Brewing Co., Weatherford.
  • False Idol Brewing, North Richland Hills.

Permanent Closures:
  • The Collective Brewing Project, Fort Worth.
  • Deep Ellum Funkytown Fermatorium, Fort Worth.
  • New Main Brewing Co., Pantego.
  • Uncle Buck's Brewery & Steakhouse, Grapevine.

Ceased Brewing Operations:
  • Bluffview Growler, Dallas - growler shop remains open.
  • Harvest Seasonal Kitchen, McKinney - restaurant remains open.

Temporary Closures (not counted as new closures):
  • By the Horns Brewing, Mansfield - closed since onset of pandemic.
  • Nine Band Brewing Co., Allen - status unknown due to ongoing legal issues.
  • On Rotation, Dallas - closed original location to build new facility.
  • Thirsty Bro Brewing, Royse City - closed original location to build new facility.
  • Woodcreek Brewing Co., Rockwall - closed original facility to search for a new location.
Source: Individual research.

The Year in Beer
  • Community collaborations:

    Etzel memorial series: The North Texas craft beer community came together in 2020 to honor the memory of Fort Worth homebrewer, Greg Etzel. Known by many through his work with Texas Brewing Inc. and the shop's Come & Brew It podcast, Etzel passed away in November 2019 after a brave fight against cancer. Up to now, seven Tarrant County breweries have created memorial beers using Etzel's own recipes, with proceeds from sales benefiting charities chosen by his family.

    All Together: Organized by Other Half Brewing Co. of Brooklyn, New York, the All Together collaboration was designed to support members of the hospitality industry struggling due to the pandemic. Four breweries in North Texas contributed to the cause by brewing a version of Other Half's base recipe for All Together IPA. Proceeds from sales went to relief organizations and hospitality professionals in Dallas-Fort Worth.

    Black is Beautiful: Breweries worldwide joined Weathered Souls Brewing Co. of San Antonio in an effort to "raise awareness for injustices people of color face daily." In North Texas, nearly 20 area breweries participated in the Black is Beautiful initiative, each putting their spin on an imperial stout recipe provided by Weathered Souls. Proceeds from sales were targeted towards local community organizations focused on supporting police brutality reform and legal defense funds for the wrongfully-accused.

  • Crazed concoctions: Martin House Brewing Co. followed up the Best Maid pickle beer pandemonium of 2019 with new infusions featuring ingredients like buffalo wing sauce, Dunkaroos and Flamin' Hot Cheetos. These beers and others were a hit with consumers, while news outlets near and far mused at the mindset behind the Fort Worth brewery.

    Among other brews creating a buzz in 2020, Panther Island Brewing Co. of Fort Worth conjured up a reminder of popular convenience store pit-stops with Road Trip Snacks, a beer brewed with Buc-ee's Beaver Nuggets.

    And in Garland, snacks of a different nature were sourced by Lakewood Brewing Co. and Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery. The two breweries teamed up to create Twinkie beers inspired by the movie Zombieland.

  • Style trends: Hazy IPAs continued to cast a spell over the collective consciousness of the local craft beer community in 2020, with local "juice' producers like Celestial Beerworks of Dallas, Turning Point Beer of Bedford and Tupps Brewery of McKinney rolling out new varieties on the regular.

    Beyond the haze craze, hard seltzers remained in in high demand during 2020, with fruit-flavored product lines being introduced by the likes of Armadillo Ale Works of Denton, Tupps Brewery and more. Wild Acre Brewing Co. of Fort Worth even introduced a pickle hard seltzer called Magic Brine earlier this month.

    A bounty of fruit flavors can also be found in slushy-style beers built upon a Berliner weisse base. These are becoming a signature style at 903 Brewers of Sherman, a.k.a. the "Slushy Factory" according to signage the brewery has posted outside its door.

  • Sad farewells in the service sector: No recap of the past year would be complete without paying final respects to three beloved draft beer venues who closed their doors. As 2020 comes to a close, be sure to raise a glass in memory of The Common Table Uptown, LUCK at Trinity Groves and Flying Saucer Addison.

  • North Texas award winnersClick here to review award-winning beers from 2020. Coverage includes results from the Great American Beer Festival, U.S. Open Beer Championship, United States Beer Tasting Championship, and Best of Craft Beer Awards.

  • The 2020 list of Beer in Big D's preferred pours (new-to-market, or newly-discovered beers some blogger particularly enjoyed): 903 Fragile Like a Bomb, Division Macaroon Morning, False Idol La Vida Mocha, Funky Picnic Banjo Banjo Banjooo!!!!, HopFusion Etzel, Odd Muse Woodpecker Lips, On Rotation Some Kind of Oak Monster, Peticolas Not With That Attitude, Saint Arnold Commitment, Tupps Dive Bar Brunch, Turning Point/3 Nations Bedford County Barrel-Aged Stout, Vector/BrainDead Slightly Darker Black.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tupps ringing in the new year with R.I.P. 2020

Image courtesy of Tupps Brewery.

With its latest release, Tupps Brewery of McKinney wants to give everyone a reason to celebrate the start of a new year, so the company is telling 2020 to R.I.P and never come back!

That sentiment is front and center on the label of R.I.P. 2020, a double dry-hopped IPA, along with a variety other graphics representing things we've all endured during 2020 - the pandemic, murder hornets, natural disasters, toilet paper shortages and more.

“This year has been a roller coaster," says Keith Lewis, founder and president of Tupps. "We have had to shift our business plan multiple times, close the taproom, amp up our beer-to-go process and the list goes on. This year has been a tough one for everyone. We wanted to create a beer that everyone can relate to and a beer that tastes top notch so we can end this year on a good note and celebrate.”

As for the beer itself, the recipe for R.I.P 2020 features a wide range of Tupps' favorite hop varieties, including Citra, Galaxy, Nelson, Sultana, Ella, Vic Secret, El Dorado, Azacca, Cryo Citra, Cryo Mosaic, Sabro, and Idaho-7. 

“We have great relationships with our hop suppliers, and have solid hop contacts with them," says Chris Lewis, head brewer at Tupps. "We packed this beer with our favorite hops making this IPA super hazy, juicy and drinkable.”

R.I.P. 2020 will be available on tap and in six-packs of 12-ounce cans beginning this week. Consumers in Dallas-Fort Worth can purchase R.I.P. 2020 to-go at Tupps taproom in McKinney, or pick it up at Kroger, Market Street, Total Wine, Spec's, Goody Goody, Whole Foods, Central Market and other local craft beer and wine stores. The beer will also be sold at major retailers in Austin, San Antonio and Oklahoma.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Addison Flying Saucer shuttering after 25 years

Image credit: Flying Saucer Draught Emporium.

After nearly 25 years of shining as a craft beer beacon across the northern reaches of the Metroplex, the Addison outpost of the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium is ending its run, with last call set for close of business on December 31.

The Addison pub opened in February 1996, occupying of all things a former Colter's Barbecue building. It was the second Flying Saucer to debut, following the Fort Worth original which introduced the brand in 1994.  And in a curious bit of trivia, it was Kumar the Magnificent, a 70-something plate-spinning guru once featured on The Ed Sullivan Show, who entertained guests on the night of the official grand opening that March.

Of course, beer was and always has been the main draw at all of the Flying Saucer locations. In fact, the Addison Flying Saucer was ground zero for my own craft beer journey in North Texas. I was on assignment in another state when my craft beer epiphany occurred in late 1998, but once I moved back home, I quickly learned the Flying Saucer was the place to go for better beer.  Having lived north of the wall ever since, it was only natural for the Addison Flying Saucer to become my go-to spot, a status it maintained for a decade or more at least.

In addition to drinking my first Texas-brewed beer at the Addison Flying Saucer, I remember drinking my first Christmas beer there, and attending the first (of entirely too many) keep the glass nights there. I even remember the time a few buddies and I stopped in for Stone Brewery Night, when the beer in the spotlight was none other than Arrogant Bastard Ale. We had no idea what the beer was all about...just that it had a great name and a great logo, so it was a given we had to try it. By night's end, I had undergone what I now call my extreme beer epiphany. I think this was pre-Millennium, mind you, when big beers really weren't much of a big thing.

As for any additional firsts, I'm sure others occurred at the Addison Flying Saucer, for I certainly enjoyed many more beers there along the way.  Indeed, it's a mystery as to why I never joined the UFO Club. I surely would have had a plate or three by now, but I guess my focus was always on the beer and the experience, as opposed to achieving any accolades.

Along those lines, I always say it's the experiences I'll remember above all else when it comes to my time in the beer industry, and I can say I've had my share of them among friends over the years at the Addison Flying Saucer. So, here's one last cheers to a place that for me represents yet another unforgettable loss in what has been a completely forgettable year.

According a report in the Dallas Morning News, the lease was up on the Flying Saucer's location in Addison, with co-owner Shannon Wynne choosing not to renew it due to an inability to create adequate patio space.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Accolades abound for NTX breweries at 2020 U.S. Open Beer Championship

Image credit: U.S. Open Beer Championship.

Building on an already impressive history of wins at the U.S. Open Beer Championship, North Texas breweries were honored with 16 awards (6 gold, 7 silver, 3 bronze) at the 2020 edition of what's billed as "One of the Top 3 Beer Competitions in the USA." Comparing to results from 2019, locals improved upon the 13 medals area breweries brought home last year.

At the 2020 event, more than 6000 beers were judged across over 140 different categories. From that group, 10 North Texas breweries had entries counted among the winners. Eight of those breweries added to their lifetime U.S. Open win totals, while Tupps Brewery and Vector Brewing were recognized at the event for the first time.

See below for a list of winning beers from North Texas. You can also click here for a complete competition summary.

903 Brewers, Sherman
  • Silver for Kilt Switch in the Strong Scottish Ale category.
  • Silver for Classy Chassis in the French/Belgian Ale category.
  • Silver for Feisty Redhead in the Vegetable Beer category.
  • Gold for Lion's Share VIII in the Spirits Barrel-Aged Beer (non-whiskey) & Brandy Barrels category.
  • Gold for Sin Mint Temptress in the Experimental Beer category.
  • Bronze for Temptress in the Imperial Stout Specialty category.
  • Gold for Columbiana in the Rum Barrel-Aged Beer category.
  • Gold for Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Porter with Tart Cherries in the Barrel-Aged Fruit Beer category.
  • Silver for Tipsy Goat in the Heller Bock/Maibock category.
  • Gold for Black Curtains in the American Imperial Stout category.
  • Silver for Great Scot! in the Scottish Ale category.
  • Silver for Royal Scandal in the English Pale Ale category.
  • Bronze for Velvet Hammer in the Imperial Red Ale category.
Tupps Brewery, McKinney
  • Silver for Full Grown Man in the American Imperial Stout category.
  • Bronze for Slightly Darker Black in the American-Style Black Ale category.
  • Gold for The Little Guy in the Sessions Beer category.

Cheers and congratulations to all!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Texas Ale Project signs pact with Andrews Distributing

Image credits: Andrews Distributing, Texas Ale Project.

Texas Ale Project of Dallas has announced a partnership with Andrews Distributing for the distribution of its products to areas within North Texas.

According to Kat Thompson, co-founder and CEO of Texas Ale Project, the new partnership will allow her team to focus on growth in new ways. 

“Texas Ale Project is both excited and humbled to be partnering with world-class distributor Andrews Distributing, to further grow and expand our business and distributor networks,” says Thompson. “Andrews has a strong team and reputation, and we are especially looking forward to leveraging their advanced sales and marketing capabilities to launch new items like our recently announced Pantera Golden Ale. One of our joint alignment goals for 2021 is to increase the accessibility of our beers and TAPWTR hard seltzers within the DFW metroplex and across Texas, and we are confident that Andrews is the right partner for executing those goals.”

David Holt, executive vice-president of marketing for Andrews, added that he looks forward to growing Texas Ale Project with the Andrews team. 

“We are committed to acquiring the right brands to build a portfolio that adds value for our customers,” says Holt. “To do so, we are committed to investing in local brewers that are connecting with Texas beer lovers. Texas Ale Project and their prior distributor partner FullClip have done a fantastic job building the brands with consumers. This opportunity allows Andrews to expand brand awareness for the Texas Ale Project portfolio.”

Beginning December 30, Andrews will sell Texas Ale Project’s brands to both on- and off-premise accounts in their DFW footprint, including Tarrant and Collin counties that were previously serviced by FullClip Craft Distributors. FullClip will continue to distribute Texas Ale Project beers in Denton County north of Highway 121 and Parker County. The teams also have plans to expand to Andrews’ South Texas footprint in the future.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Lakewood reaches final level of IPA series with Boss Fight

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Advancing to the final stage of its yearlong IPA series inspired by retro gaming and the almighty hop, Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland urges consumers to get their game face on in preparation for the Boss Fight!

A monster double dry-hopped imperial hazy IPA, Level 4: Boss Fight features a blend of choice hops from New Zealand, including Nelson Sauvin, Motueka, Sunrise and Riwaka varieties. According to the brewery, this mix creates an aroma with notes of tropical fruit, citrus and stone fruit. As for Boss Fight's finish and feel, Lakewood describes Boss Fight as well-balanced with a reserved bitterness.

“We’re at the end of our year-long DDH series and it’s been a blast, but before we kiss 2020 goodbye we gotta fight the Boss!” says Wim Bens, founder and president of Lakewood. “This series has been a bright spot in a year that’s been anything but in the beer industry. It’s been a welcome distraction and has made us better brewers for lots of new innovation to come in 2021.”

Level 4: Boss Fight will be available in four-packs of 12-ounce cans beginning the first week of December. Look for it at select retailers, or head to Lakewood's Drive-Thru to pick it up to-go.