Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Deep Ellum rolls out bumped-up Bandito

Image credit: Deep Ellum Brewing Co./CANarchy.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas has announced the release of a new seasonal cerveza based off the company's year-round Mexican-style lager, Neato Bandito.

Cadillac Bandito (6% ABV) plays off the original Bandito by adding flavors of sea salt and lime. The citrus flavors join with a subtle touch of sea salt to balance the sweet flavor of malted Texas blue corn. What results is a beer light in color, but big in flavor, with aromas of blue corn tortilla chips and freshly-squeezed lime. 

“For me, this was a natural progression of Neato Bandito," says Brian Morris, head brewer at Deep Ellum. "How can we take what we love about this beer and amplify it? Lime and salt! People commonly ‘dress a glass’ or bottle around here. So, why not do it for them?"

Look for Cadillac Bandito to be available in six-packs of 12-ounce cans starting March 1. Pick it up at craft beer-friendly retailers across Texas, or grab some to-go at the Deep Ellum Taproom + Kitchen.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Ten years in, this Hammer still hits

Image credit: Peticolas Brewing Co.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the first time I drank Velvet Hammer.

How is this possible you ask? I mean, Peticolas Brewing Co. didn't go into production until December 2011. Well, let's just say the beginnings of a blog and the beginnings of a brewery came together around this time 10 years ago.

In fact, the coming together came to be in the parking of the Bavarian Grill in Plano. There was a meeting, and there was a beer...the latter delivered by way of the trunk of Michael Peticolas' car.

At the time, the Hammer didn't have a name. It was a test batch to gather feedback from anyone willing to meet Peticolas for an impromptu beer share. Of course, the test batch evolved into a debut offering that dared to defy convention. Rather than follow the standard blonde ale and IPA playbook, Peticolas had the idea of opening with something a wee bit bolder. Enter the Hammer, an imperial red ale with an ABV of 9%.

The beer was poured publicly for the first time on January 24, 2012 at the Meddlesome Moth. Before long, the band Shotgun Friday had written a song about the beer. The tune was played at the brewery's first anniversary bash - an event, incidentally, which featured a somewhat unusual wedding. You see, what happened was...a cheesemonger married a beer.

But I digress...

I bring this all up for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it recalls great memories dating back to before the local craft beer boom got started. There's more to it, though, when you consider exactly what it means.

Not many North Texas beers have stood the test of time for 10 years. Like it or not, today's market operates with a one-and-done type mentality. If you like a new beer nowadays, you better get it while you can, because the NEXT new thing is right around the corner.

Yet, here we are 10 years later, still drinking Velvet Hammer. It's always been like the trusty tool you always reach for, which makes for the perfect analogy, given the beer's name and its status as a sturdy and reliable brew.

So, what am I getting at?

Take the quality, consistency and longevity and add this - I believe it's fair to say Velvet Hammer fits the definition of being "widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence." Those aren't my words in quotes, they're Webster's.

And, maybe I'm wrong, but I think that means it's iconic.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Lakewood introducing French Toast Temptress

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland has announced the release of French Toast Temptress, the newest addition to the brewery's popular Seduction Series.

“Y’all want some breakfast?” jokes Wim Bens, founder and president of Lakewood. “This time of year calls for a decadent beer and French Toast Temptress checks all the boxes. This newest release is slightly sweeter than regular Temptress with extra vanilla and lots of Grade A maple syrup and a hint of cinnamon. It’s the best part of waking up!”

Past entries in the Seduction Series have included Peanut Butter Temptress, Salted Caramel Temptress, Double Chocolate Temptress and Coconut Temptress. In order to create this latest iteration, French Toast Temptress, Lakewood has added maple syrup and other natural flavors to its best-selling Temtpress Imperial Milk Stout.

French Toast Temptress will be available at the Lakewood Taproom starting February 19, with state-wide distribution kicking off the following week.

Lakewood liberates 2020 Bourbon Barrel Temptress

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

After sharing the news its annual December release would be delayed, Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland has finally tapped the 2020 edition of Bourbon Barrel Temptress (BBT). 

“2020 wasn’t good enough for BBT,” jokes Wim Bens, founder and president of Lakewood. “All kidding aside, we wanted to make sure that our beloved BBT was the best it could be and that made us wait for a bit.”

According to a press release, this year's batch of BBT features a blend created with bourbon barrels sourced from Buffalo TraceHeaven HillJim Beam, and Wilderness Trails Distilleries. This blending of different barrels adds complexity and depth to the brewery's dark and sultry Temptress base beer.

As for what's to come in the year ahead, Lakewood has already started work on BBT 2021.

“We saw over 120 bourbon barrels arrive just this week,” adds Bens. “Now it’s time to fill them up and let them happily rest until November.”

BBT 2020 is available now on draft and in 22-ounce commemorative bottles at the Lakewood Taproom. Look for the beer to begin arriving at bars and retailers across Texas this week.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Eleven regional, two grand champions emerge from 2020-21 USBTC winter event

Image credits: United States Beer Tasting Championship

The United States Beer Tasting Championship (USBTC) has announced results from its 27th Annual Winter Competition, and three North Texas breweries are among the winners.

This year's winter event drew 544 entries from 151 breweries, with these beers judged across 19 different style categories. As always, regional winners were chosen in each category during the competition (North Texas breweries compete in the Rockies/Southwest division), then pitted against each other in a final round to determine a national grand champion.

Overall, eleven North Texas beers were named Regional Champion, with two of those going on to be crowned Grand Champion. Top honorees include Lion's Share VIII from Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland, and Iron Thistle from Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth.

A complete list of winning beers from North Texas is provided below, or you can click here for a full competition summary.

Lakewood Brewing Co., Garland

  • Lion's Share VIII, Regional and Grand Champion in the Non-whiskey Aged Beer category.
  • Bourbon Barrel Temptress, Regional Champion in the Whiskey Aged Porter/Stout category
  • The Temptress, Regional Champion in the Imperial Stout category.
  • Lakewood Lager, Regional Champion in the Vienna/Märzen Lager category.
  • Punkel, Regional Champion in the Spice Beer category.
  • Salted Caramel Temptress, Regional Champion in the Experimental Beer category.

Oak Highlands Brewery, Dallas

  • Bois D'arc, Regional Champion in the Dark Lager/Dunkel category.

  • Iron Thistle, Regional and Grand Champion in the Scottish-Style Ale category.
  • Bourbon Barrel-Aged Winter Warmer, Regional Champion in the Whiskey-Aged Beer category.
  • Winter Warmer, Regional Champion in the Strong Ale category.
  • Dadgum Coffee IPA, Regional Champion in the Coffee Beer category.


Cheers and congratulations to all!

Monday, February 1, 2021

Deep Ellum releasing Blind Lemon variety pack

Image courtesy of Deep Ellum Brewing Co.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas is expanding its Blind Lemon line of hard seltzers by way of a new variety 12-pack set to release this month.

In addition to the original Blind Lemon Hard Seltzer, the variety pack will include three new flavors - Blind Lime, Blind Peach and Blind Berry. Deep Ellum created each new flavor by infusing the Blind Lemon base with "all-new natural flavors you'll love not to hate."

From a press release:

  • Blind Lime: Main squeeze. Pairs perfectly with some Tex-Mex.
  • Blind Peach: Soft & light. You can almost taste the fuzz in the fizz. 
  • Blind Berry: What kind of berry? All the berry.

The new flavors will only be available in twelve-ounce cans found in the variety pack. Look for the pack to be sold at retailers in Texas and Oklahoma.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Court ruling lifts ban on beer to-go for CANarchy

Image credit: Deep Ellum Brewing Co.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. may now sell beer to-go from its production facility in Dallas, this after a Texas federal court ruled in favor of its parent company, CANarchy, in a case challenging regulations put forth by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).

In September 2018, a law authorizing beer to-go sales in Texas for brewers with production below 225,000 barrels a year went into effect. However, breweries operating under the CANarchy umbrella were excluded from the new law due to collective-wide barrelage.

CANarchy challenged the ban, based on arguments of discrimination against interstate commerce and its reading of the text of the regulation. The federal court recently agreed with CANarchy’s reading, a ruling that will allow beer to-go sales moving forward. 

“We’re beyond excited that the court ruled in our favor," says Matt Fraser, president and COO of CANarchy. "This allows us to join our fellow craft brewers to get the freshest beer possible to our fans in package format to-go including cans and crowlers.”

CANarchy was represented by Austin-based attorneys, Cobb & Counsel, whose practice focuses on regulatory compliance and litigation. For more information on the case, click here to read a summary found on the firm's website.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Chambers Creek Brewing coming to Maypearl

Image credit: Chambers Creek Brewing Co.

Ellis County will soon be home to a new brewery near its western edge, as Chambers Creek Brewing Co. is now under construction in Maypearl.

According to founder Lyle Chambers, plans for the project involve the setup of a small-batch brewery and taproom in an existing structure located at 319 N. Main St. The choice of locale is fortuitous, since the brewery would seem to pair well with a neighboring business across the street.

"We are remodeling a 1940s gas station for our nanobrewery," says Chambers. "Next to us is an amazing barbecue place called Hissy Fits, with a small music venue attached to it. They have live Texas country music every 2nd and 4th Saturday."

As for how Chambers will approach his portfolio, he'll offer hard seltzers in addition to beer, while following the usual plan of having an array of regulars and rotators on tap, albeit with a twist.

"I plan on having 2-3 beers always on tap, and 3-4 that will be constantly rotating," says Chambers. "I also want to do a concept where people can request a type of beer, and then I will brew it and have it ready for them to drink in 1-2 months."

Chambers hopes to have the brewery open by mid-spring.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A first look at what's to come at Windmills in The Colony

Windmills in The Colony is the second brewpub designed and built by Total Environment Hospitality (all images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

The long-awaited debut of Windmills, a brewpub concept first established in Bangalore, India, by Total Environment Hospitality, is set to take place later this month in the Grandscape development of The Colony.

It was August 2019 when plans for Windmills were revealed in this space. According to CEO Ajay Nagarajan, an early 2020 opening was pushed back due to delays associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, but now Windmills is putting the final touches on a refined brewpub showplace unlike any other in North Texas.

Windmills offers multi-level seating inside and out, with patio options overlooking a manmade waterway.

Along with a fully-appointed brewery, attractions within Windmills' two-story, 14,000 square foot facility include spacious dining areas, two full bars, a performance stage, multi-level seating inside and out, and an expansive selection of carefully-curated books. As a whole, the combination makes Windmills a restaurant, brewery, library and live music venue all rolled into one.

On the culinary side, an elevated menu overseen by Adam Harkless, Windmills' executive chef, goes well beyond everyday pub grub. Starters, stuffed breads, kebabs, entrées and desserts are inspired by Texas traditions and East Indian influences (think spices like curry, cardamom, cumin and cinnamon).

Select samples provided at a socially-distanced preview event are described with images below. Not pictured, Texas Twinkies (smoked, honey glazed and bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese, gouda and pulled pork) are forecast to be a particular favorite among patrons.

Left: Cheese Curds Pakora - fried white cheddar cheese curds, mint-yogurt dipping sauce.
Middle left: Prime Filet Dorado - bacon-wrapped prime filet, black-eyed pea succotash, mole poblano sauce, roasted broccolini.
Middle right: Carrot Halwa Cake - carrot halwa and orange upside-down cake, citrus salad, orange chips, French vanilla ice cream.
Right: Sour Cherry Kulfi - pistachio/saffron kulfi, ruby chocolate, chick pea noodles, saffron-pistachio sauce, sour cherry compote, sweet basil seeds.

In the brewhouse, Windmills has equipped Cal Ryan, director of brewing operations, with a 15-barrel, three-vessel system paired with an array of seven fermenters and 14 serving tanks. From the latter, no fewer than 14 house-brewed beers will be served on a daily basis.

Among them, customers will discover a mix of new and old world styles, with recipes originating from America, Belgium, Germany and beyond. Ryan says the opportunity to brew a diverse range of styles is one of the things that attracted him to Windmills, since he was most recently a brewer in San Diego, California, where it's all about the almighty IPA.

Highlights from a tasting of initial offerings were a Coffee Porter, made with beans sourced from Addison Coffee Roasters, and a Tropical Saison, infused with mango, passionfruit and pineapple (a beer which pairs wonderfully with elements of the food menu). Also notable, a hefeweizen is the best seller at Windmills' original location in India, so naturally it slots into the local lineup as well (see image caption below for the complete opening day slate).

Opening day beer styles: Blonde, Pilsner, Saison, Tropical Saison, Vienna Lager, Amber, Hefeweizen, Pale Ale, IPA, Hazy IPA, DIPA,
Blackberry Sour, Coffee Porter, Imperial Stout. Flights and full pours will be available on site, with crowlers and growlers to take home.

Altogether, Windmills is an ambitious and unique venture. With its sophisticated dining element, the promise of world class jazz and the availability of intellectual reading pursuits, the new spot presents as a multi-faceted venue where visitors can indulge in the finer things in life while enjoying, of course, a finely-crafted beer.

As for when you can experience the eclectic atmosphere yourself, Nagarajan expects Windmills to go live during the last week of January. The brewpub will begin with a soft launch, followed by an official grand opening to be held at a later date.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Say When Brewing taps debut beers in Denison

Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D. Graphics the property of Say When Brewing Co.

The City of Denison in Grayson County has a new brewery within its borders, as Say When Brewing Co. now has its first round of offerings on the market.

Say When Brewing is located at 111 S. Fannin Ave., with the brewery's equipment housed in a century-old (or more) building in the heart of Downtown Denison. Currently, the facility only operates as a production space, but indications are a taproom will be incorporated at a later date.

For that reason, Say When Brewing's debut brews are pouring at Green Growler, a beer and wine bar literally right around the corner from the brewery. The following three beers are available by the pint, in flights, and in 32- or 64-ounce growlers. And, based on my initial impressions, each represents a straight-forward representation of a classic American style.

  • Oatmeal Blonde Ale (6.2% ABV, 18 IBU): A clean and easy drinker with a slightly sweet pale malt character, a hint of grain and a faint finishing bitterness.

  • Texas Penny Copper (4.1% ABV, 37 IBU): By the book American amber balancing caramel malt character with a light-to-moderate mix of floral and fruity hop varieties.

  • Local Motive IPA (5.8% ABV, 75 IBU): Hop-forward with a noticeable bitterness, this beer is a classically-styled West Coast IPA with elements of citrus, pine and resin.

A look at filings with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) shows only keg approvals for these beers thus far, so the expectation is they will be draft-only for the time being. Packaging in cans is assumed to be in the plans, though, based on product graphics shared on the brewery's Facebook page.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Oldest brewing operation in North Texas is no more

The bar and brewing operation occupied the second floor at Uncle Buck's (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Bass Pro Group, LLC has confirmed Uncle Buck's Brewery & Steakhouse will no longer operate within Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Grapevine.

Originally established as Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse by a Michigan-based brewpub chain in 2000, Bass Pro purchased the restaurant and re-branded it in 2008. Naturally, Uncle Buck's played up an outdoor theme, with the brewery side of the business producing beers like Bass Kickin' Pale Ale, Old Angler's Amber and Four Stroke 60 IPA.

Uncle Buck's continued to operate alongside Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing what was assumed to be a temporary closure in March 2020. At the time, Uncle Buck's was recognized as the oldest active brewing operation in North Texas, having been around for nearly 20 years.

As for the space, an email from Bass Pro indicates the company is "exploring opportunities to create an enhanced customer experience in the future."

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Beard Science sets up Sour House in The Colony

They're serving all sour beers all the time at Beard Science (All images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

We may be a week into the new year, but it turns out 2020 has one last surprise in store for local beer drinkers. It's a good surprise, mind you, involving a veteran brewer and a brand new brewery called Beard Science Sour House at Truck Yard in The Colony.

To begin with, Beard Science opened quietly in mid-December. It's the second of three brewing concepts developed by Brain Storm Shelter, the parent company behind Truck Yard, Twisted Root Burger Co., and By the Horns Brewing.

The kicker, however, is former Franconia Brewing Co. founder Dennis Wehrmann mans the mash paddle at Beard Science. Wehrmann parted ways with Franconia in 2020, moving on to join Brain Storm Shelter, a group he advised early on when a brewery project was first considered in 2017.  Now, the new partnership will extend to Second Rodeo Brewing, currently under construction at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

But wait, there's more. As its full name implies, Beard Science deals exclusively in wild and sour beers. Once production ramps up, 16 wild and sour brews will be on tap with not a single clean beer on the board. Not only that, the venture has Wehrmann taking a break from his historically well-known adherence to the Reinheitsgebot (a.k.a. the German beer purity law).

So, show of hands, who had Dennis Wehrmann brewing tart and funky beers with ingredients like Greek yogurt, pickles and watermelon on their 2020 craft beer bingo card? 

In addition to community and high-top tables inside, seating options also exist on a catwalk-like patio outside.

It's a new direction, but in Wehrmann's view it's simply a matter of mindset and recognizing a non-traditional approach is necessary to make non-traditional beer.

"We're making beer, but not in the way that goes back to my deep, traditional roots," explains Wehrmann. "So, for that reason, I decided to put a cover over the purity law and look at it as an alcoholic beverage with an open book. It's a lot of fun and I can do some crazy stuff with it."

In line with that thinking, Wehrmann calls the setup at Beard Science his playground. He's brewing on a 10-barrel system, the smallest brewhouse he's ever used in his career. Five-barrel stainless steel fermenters are on hand for split batches, and wood-aged beers will emerge from foeders and whiskey barrels.

"We want to cover three different routes," says Wehrmann. "We'll have a range with the Berliner weisse/kettle sour as a base [for different treatments]. Then we'll do some funky stuff with mixed cultures in the foeders, and some barrel aging."

Wood foeders will contain mixed culture fermentations at Beard Science, while a cellar wall will store bottle-conditioned brews.

Additional elements of Beard Science's master plan include the development of house cultures, with Wehrmann looking to forage in the local woods for components. There's even a cellar wall on the premises, where the brewery intends to curate a stock of vintage bottle-conditioned brews.

As for what's on tap to start, five beers are pouring at Beard Science. The Berliner weisse base (3.5% ABV) sets the stage for an "extra sour" variant, along with versions brewed with woodruff flowers (floral, sweet and sour) and blood oranges (citrusy, tart and bitter). There's also my favorite initial offering, a Belgian Dark Sour (6.8% ABV) whose tartness is balanced by dark fruit flavors of raisins and plums.

Beyond that, fans of Wehrmann's approach to traditional styles shouldn't fret, as beers of this nature will be the focus at Second Rodeo later this year. There, beers will undergo a secondary lagering process by way of horizontal lagering tanks Wehrmann has procured.

"The Fort Worth brewery is coming along great," reveals Wehrmann. "We're probably going to move equipment in around the middle of February, and then hopefully start brewing within two months after that."

If you're a sour head, though, you'll want to go ahead and check out the new Beard Science Sour House during taproom hours on Wednesday-Sunday, from 11 a.m. to midnight.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Big Spray looks to make a splash in Princeton

Set up on the end cap of a retail development, Big Spray has seating options inside and out (All images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Hoping to make a splash in the northeastern portion of the Metroplex, Big Spray Brewing has opened and is serving up its brand of beer and food in Princeton. The new spot occupies an end cap of a newly-built retail center at 816 E. Princeton Dr. on the eastern side of the city.

Doug Abbott and his wife Evelyn debuted Big Spray just before Christmas, presenting it as more of a restaurant serving house-brewed beer, as opposed to what some would call a traditional brewpub. The original plan was to follow the brewery and taproom model, but settling in Princeton meant adding a kitchen to meet permitting requirements calling for a food element with this type of business.

Regardless of how it's viewed, Big Spray represents something new and different in the area of Princeton. Production breweries may exist nearby in McKinney, but the next closest brewpub (or brewery restaurant) is located in North Plano.

As for the concept, the company name brings together two of Abbott's favorite things - water skiing and beer. Along those lines, tap handles and flight boards are fashioned in the form of a water ski. Beer names follow suit as well, with options like Long Line Pale Ale among the initial offerings, and others called Driver Buoy Blonde and Doug's 5 Ball IPA on the way.

Center: Grab a seat here for a close-up look at Big Spray's five-barrel system.
Left/right: In line with the inspiration behind Big Spray's name, flight boards take the shape of a water ski.

Those beers and further recipes will eventually slot in to one of a dozen spots on the brewpub's tap wall. Abbott is churning out a batch per week on a five-barrel system, with fermentation taking place in one of two five-barrel fermenters. Currently, Abbott has habanero and coconut variants of the pale ale on tap, with a red ale, porter and honey wheat lined up in his production schedule. 

On the topic of food, Big Spray's menu features small bites, salads and "Main Event" entrees, along with items for the kids and a range of desserts. From the list, an Indiana Breaded Pork Tenderloin sandwich was a popular (and tempting) choice the day I dropped by, but I went with the rather tasty Original Cuban featuring roasted pulled pork, Canadian bacon, provolone cheese, mustard and pickles.

What's most noticeable, though, is the welcoming aspect of the operation overall. Considering the friendly and hands-on ownership, low-key atmosphere and approachable nature of the beer and food menus, Big Spray would appear to appeal to a casual crowd looking for a low-key neighborhood hangout. All points are certainly representative of the brewpub's mission to be a place for locals to find "Craft Beer, Good Food, Great Friends."

Check out Big Spray for yourself if you're in the area. The brewpub has operating hours six days a week (closed on Tuesday).