Monday, March 29, 2021

Texas craft breweries team up for Liquid Bake Sale

Image courtesy of Texas Craft Brewers Guild.

This spring, over 25 Texas breweries are joining forces to throw an old school community bake sale in support of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild (TCBG). Only, instead of baking up brownies and lemon bars, they’re brewing handcrafted beers with a foundation of Texas-grown malt, and releasing them from their taprooms across the state.

The collaboration comes after an immensely challenging year for Texas craft brewers, including for the TCBG, which works to advance the brewing industry through advocacy and education. The 501(c)(6) non-profit trade association relies heavily on in-person events like the annual Texas Craft Brewers Festival, which pivoted to a smaller virtual experience in 2020. Purchasing a Liquid Bake Sale beer is a way beer enthusiasts can patronize a local brewery and help support the TCBG’s mission.

“Sometimes we feel like the PTA for breweries, but in the best way possible," says Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the TCBG. “When the idea came up to throw a fundraiser for the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, a bake sale seemed like a natural thing to do. When we found out we could partner with our friends at TexMalt, we knew for certain it was something we had to do. We simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to feature Texas-grown malt in some of the most creative ways possible with breweries across the state, while at the same time ensuring the on-going operations of the non-profit trade association that advocates, educates, and promotes Texas craft breweries.”

Liquid Bake Sale beers are not limited to a single recipe or specific style. From pastry stouts, to double IPAs, to farmhouse saisons, each brewery’s creation will showcase Texas-grown malt from Fort Worth-based TexMalt in a different, unique way.

“We cannot tell you how excited we are to see our malt in the hands of so many talented Texas Brewers!” says Chase Leftwich, co-founder of TexMalt. “The Liquid Bake Sale collaboration left the door wide open for creativity at the participating breweries, and the crew here at TexMalt are dying to try the different variations!” 

Breweries began brewing their Liquid Bake Sale beers in early March. Locals joining the effort include Funky Picnic Brewery & Café and Wild Acre Brewing Co. of Fort Worth, as well as Vector Brewing of Dallas. Funky Picnic's variation, Apple Cobbler Golden Pastry Stout, is available now, while details on offerings from Wild Acre and Vector Brewing are pending.

Liquid Bake Sale beers will be released in bottles and cans featuring retro, bake sale-inspired label art from Austin-based designer Lauren Dickens. For those looking to further support the initiative, Liquid Bake Sale T-shirts and stickers are also available in the TCBG’s online store.

To learn more about Liquid Bake Sale, visit https://texascraftbrewersguild.org/liquidbakesale.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Neutral Ground aims to bridge the beer gap in Fort Worth

Compared to the original 1950s-era structure, a portion of the front elevation was
recessed to create patio space for Neutral Ground (all images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

A new brand of beer is pouring in the Metroplex, as Neutral Ground Brewing Co. is now open at 2929 Race St. in Fort Worth.

Founded by Sean Doublet and Stan Hudson, Neutral Ground is the latest project to land in a newly-redeveloped area of town. The brewery occupies a 4000 square foot building in River East, a vibrant shopping and entertainment district located in the northeastern section of the city.

Regarding the name, "Neutral Ground" is a historical reference symbolizing the coming together of owners who grew up on different sides of the Louisiana-Texas border. Moreover, the moniker serves as the inspiration behind the brewery's overall mission.

In the early 19th century, the "Neutral Ground" was a disputed border region between Spanish Texas and land acquired by the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. The matter remained in question from 1806 to 1821, but rather than go to war over the issue, the opposing parties designated a soldier-free zone to prevent hostilities while negotiations continued.

Neutral Ground is serving King Cake and other beers by the pint during its soft
opening, with additional options (including to-go containers) to be added at a later date.

Applying the story to the brewery's concept, Neutral Ground presents as a place where beer drinkers with differing backgrounds and tastes can meet in the middle over a pint in a relaxing and inclusive setting. Initial offerings support this approach, given style options ranging from a British mild, to a hazy IPA (the first beer to sell out), to an imperial stout, with ABVs falling between 3.7 and 8.6%.

Neutral Ground's signature selection, though, is its King Cake beer (3.0% ABV). Brewed in the spirit of confections made in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, King Cake is served in sugar-rimmed glass. It may sound sweet, but King Cake is as balanced as a pastry beer can be, with a doughy malt base and a soothing cinnamon infusion.

As for availability, Neutral Ground's beers are limited for now as the brewery operates on a soft basis while awaiting delivery of its 10-barrel production system. Once equipment arrives and is dialed-in, taproom hours will be extended beyond current service times on Friday from 4-10 p.m. and Saturday from 2-10 p.m.

Should you visit, take note food isn't provided in house, but it may be brought in from nearby restaurants or delivered. Also important, know parking on Race St. is a bit quirky, requiring drivers to back into spots along the sides of the street. Choose not to, and you're pretty much pre-destined to receive a parking ticket.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Lakewood releases new citrusy spring seasonal

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

The coming of spring has brought with it a new seasonal release from Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland.

Tangerine Queen is a citrus wheat ale brewed with orange peel and tangerine purée. According to a press release, the beer is fermented with an American wheat yeast strain which leaves the finished beer lighter in body than either a German wheat or Belgian witbier, while also enhancing the citrus aroma and flavor.

“With the world reopening it’s time to grab a refreshing beer on a patio and drink in the sun,” says Wim Bens, founder and president of Lakewood. “Tangerine Queen is a great beer for any beer drinker! It’s super low on the hops and high on the citrus. We’ve been having so much fun with our designs too. We’re making Seriously Fun Beers at LBC and our creativity is being unleashed in our recipes as well as our designs.”

Look for Tangerine Queen on draft and in six-packs of 12-ounce cans. The beer will be available statewide from March through August.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

House beers supplement the scene at Old Texas Brewing Co. in Burleson

Old Texas Brewing Co. is located in Old Town Burleson, with easy access to I-35W (all images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

You'd be forgiven for not knowing a brewpub exists in the City of Burleson. Despite its name, Old Texas Brewing Co. didn't serve house beers when it debuted in spring 2013. Social media posts (and Untappd check-ins) indicate Old Texas didn't go into production until mid-2018, and even then, less than a dozen different beers have appeared periodically since.

Given that, it's not surprising to find that Old Texas presents as a restaurant first and foremost. House beers are limited to selections poured from three serving tanks behind the bar, with beers like Father Kent's Heavenly Honey Wheat, Glowing Raspberries (a saison) and Hazy Sun Shine NEIPA helping to fill a 30-tap draft lineup containing both craft and macro offerings.

Tasters, flights and full pours are offered at Old Texas Brewing Co., with growlers available to take home.

Truth be told, house beers at Old Texas are just one of a number of added amenities designed to supplement the overall vibe. Whether it's the expansive and varied food menu, multiple patio areas (including the "Skybar" on the roof), or regular band bookings, Old Texas is a venue serving at times as a restaurant, weekend hangout and live music venue.

So, while Old Texas does qualify as a brewpub, one imagines the other aspects are what bring people in to this eight-year-old business. But then, appealing to a wide range of interests appears to be the central goal, considering Old Texas describes itself as a place with "a little something for everyone."

Old Texas Brewing Co. is open daily at its location in the city's historic Old Town Burleson district. Free parking is available nearby, with lots only steps away from the restaurant's front door.

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.