Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Topics on Twin Cities beer, the 2022 CBC and World Beer Cup

The 2022 Craft Brewers Conference took place at the Minneapolis Convention Center (© Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Things I knew about Minnesota before visiting the state last week for the 2022 Craft Brewer's Conference (CBC), presented by the Brewers Association, were more or less limited to sports-related items - the Twins, the Vikings, the Wild, and the fact that the Dallas Stars were borne of the Minnesota North Stars.

Vikings were probably most prevalent in my mind, and while there are noticeable elements of Nordic culture - Scandinavian gift shops, the American Swedish Institute, a Leif Erikson statue on the grounds of the State Capitol, the people of Poland and Ukraine are likewise well-represented.

I also learned Minnesota is the home of the Jolly Green Giant and the founder of the Mayo Clinic. In fact, a house that served as W. W. Mayo's first medical practice was also once the home of the Cosgrove family who started the Green Giant Company.

Oh, and if you're into cartography, Interstate 35 (I-35) splits into east and west branches through the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, just like it does here at home for Dallas and Fort Worth.

As for all things beer in Minnesota, what I discovered was an active and vibrant scene. Most beer drinkers have heard of the Summit and Surly brewing companies, but beyond those, Minnesota may be a bit of a mystery - or, at least it was to me. One very pleasant surprise, though, is how you can explore both past and present elements of Minnesota's beer industry.

Highlights of my beer explorations in Minnesota are included below, as is a summary of topics discussed during keynote speeches at this year's CBC and the event's annual State of the Industry address. A quick recap of 2022 World Beer Cup results is provided as well.


State of the Industry

The message conveyed during the annual State of the Industry address given by Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, was one of challenges ahead for America's craft brewers.

Craft beer is rebounding as it recovers from struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet while overall volume production is bouncing back, only about half of breweries in the U.S. have regained or improved upon 2019 production levels. What this means is, many breweries have now gone a number of years without experiencing any sort of business growth.

Even so, the number of breweries in America continues to increase, though it's notable that the growth curve is now leveling off - only 646 openings were recorded in 2021, continuing a downward trend in new brewery debuts that began around the beginning of 2018.

Data courtesy of the Brewers Association.

The rate of closures continues to remain low - only 186 in 2021, but the expectation is numbers will rise going forward. One reason cited was the end of pandemic-driven government support for small businesses. With the possibility of deferred bills coming due, the question becomes whether breweries on life support will be able to stand on their own.

Moreover, a difficult economic environment will impact operations for many, with supply chain issues resulting in rising costs, which will lead to pricing dilemmas as breweries make decisions as to how much of these increases will have to be passed on to their customers.

There's also the specter of increased competition, though it's not just other beer makers brewery owners have to worry about. Other types of alcoholic beverages are gaining market share and fighting for the same retail space and distribution channels as they vie for consumer dollars.

With that in mind, innovation is a key going forward for breweries hoping to weather the storm. Ideas and approaches spurring past growth will likely need to be refreshed and/or re-invented in order to get things moving forward again.

Watson further called upon attendees to remember that innovation begins with the customer. Brewers must be responsive to the demands of current customers, while also seeking out new ones who many have different preferences with regards to craft beer, and craft beverages in general.

Strong branding and creativity will matter greatly as well, points touched on by other featured speakers at the event. Natalie Cilurzo, co-founder of Russian River Brewing Co. of California, spoke at length about how breweries should have a clear and defined sense of purpose. Further reinforcing this with the right product choices and community involvement helps both customers (brand loyalty) and staff (employee retention) connect to your brewery.

On creativity, Timothy Wu, special assistant to President Biden for technology and competition policy, called the craft beer industry a model for the type of economy the administration wants to promote. Individualism, local identity, and diversity of choice being preferred over the watered-down nature of a consolidated industry and the anti-competitive practices that result. Wu also suggested breweries producing little beyond "trivial variations" weren't on the same page as others when it comes to true creativity and innovation.

Despite these issues, Watson believes craft beer can and will continue to thrive. Breweries have more than proven their resilience over the last two years, and he expects them to rise to the challenges in front of them as the industry soldiers on.

Three local breweries earn World Beer Cup honors

Held for the first time since 2018, this year's edition of the World Beer Cup (WBC) attracted 10,542 entries submitted by 2,493 breweries from around the world (with 57 different countries represented). A total of 307 medals were awarded by judges across 103 style categories. As for the most-entered categories, there was a flip-flop at the top compared to 2018, as "American-Style India Pale Ale," with 384 entries, jumped ahead of "Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale," with 343.

Among honorees from North Texas, 3 Nations Brewing Co. of Carrollton won its first ever WBC award, while Community Beer Co. of Dallas landed its second, and Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth its third (click here for a full competition summary).

  • 3 Nations Brewing Co., Carrollton: Silver for Devour - Mexican Chocolate in the Chocolate Beer category.
  • Community Beer Co., Dallas: Bronze for Bock in the American-Style Amber Lager category.
  • Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth: Silver for Hazy Hefe in the South German-Style Hefeweizen category.

Founder Gavin Secchi of 3 Nations Brewing Co. accepts an award for the
brewery's Mexican Chocolate Devour Imperial Stout (© Brewers Association).

Minnesota breweries - yesterday and today

  • Of the more than a dozen breweries I visited in Minnesota, three were among the top five producers in the state, though nary a one currently ships their beers to Texas. These included August Schell Brewing Co. of New Ulm, along with Surly Brewing Co. and Fulton Brewery of Minneapolis. Another destination, Fair Sate Brewing Cooperative of Minneapolis, has been available locally since 2020.

    Fulton and Surly were two of the more lively locales I checked out, as was Modist Brewing Co., which exists along with Fulton, Inbound Brew Co., and StormKing Brewpub + Barbecue in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis.

    StormKing, incidentally, was one of three Twin Cities-area dining establishments purporting to be a purveyor of "Texas BBQ," the others being Animales Barbeque Co. of Minneapolis and Firebox Deli of St. Paul. And while each had some enjoyable offerings, I think it's safe to say nothing quite compares to the source.

    Among favorite stops, Surly was at the top of the list, as was a little joint called Yoerg Brewing Co. in St. Paul. This spot resurrects the name and flagship recipe of Minnesota's first commercial brewery, which got its start in 1848. Yoerg's Beer, a steam beer akin to Anchor Steam, is produced just as it was over 150 years ago. The beer also pairs well with The Yoerg Sandwich, a sausage and Swiss selection on rye bread that's been called "The Greatest Blue Collar Sandwich in Town."

    Left-to-right: Surly Brewing Co., Yoerg Brewing Co., Fair State Brewing Cooperative (Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).
Left-to-right: Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co., Hamm's Brewery/Saint Paul Brewing, Grain Belt Brewery (Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Friday, April 15, 2022

Ghost Eye seen as new North Texas beer brand

Image: Ghost Eye Brewing Co.

If you recently caught a glimpse of an unfamiliar North Texas beer brand, it may have been a sighting of a newly-established entity that goes by the name of Ghost Eye Brewing Co.

Russell Rodriguez and Krizia Isaac form the husband-and-wife team behind Ghost Eye, which currently operates by way of a collaboration with Trinity Forest Brewing Co. of Dallas. Essentially, the two entities share a license while brewing under an alternating proprietorship agreement with Hop & Sting Brewing Co. of Grapevine.

Ghost Eye recipes were first introduced at Big Texas Beer Fest in November 2021, and since then the company has quietly been pouring at events with Trinity Forest as it works to build a following. Draft offerings to-date have included Ghost Eye IPA, Ghost Eye Stout and Ghost Eye Pilsner. Those are just the beginning, as Rodriguez has plans for additional IPAs, sour beers and lagers going forward.

For now, though, you can expect to catch Ghost Eye at festivals and pint night events around town, including appearances at the following locales:

April 18 - Pint Night at Guitars & Growlers, McKinney.
April 21 - Pint Night at Local Tap & Table, Dallas.
April 23 - Pint Night at Mudhook Bar, Duncanville.
April 30 - Wine, Arts & Craft Brew Festival, Midlothian.

As for the future, Rodriguez says the long-term plan is to open a brick-and-mortar location in Duncanville. If all goes well, construction is slated to begin on the spot this summer.

To learn more, visit the company's website at www.ghosteyebrewing.com. You can also stay up-to-date by following Ghost Eye on Facebook and Instagram.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

New brewer, new beers and new territories part of the plan at Pathfinder

Image: Pathfinder Brewery.

With a new brewer and plans to expand its offerings and service territory, Pathfinder Brewery is looking to blaze new trails as the firm approaches its second-year anniversary in Hudson Oaks.

On the first bit of news, Pathfinder founder Eric Addison has enlisted the brewing expertise of Austin Heisch, a long-time veteran of the North Texas scene. Heisch comes to Pathfinder after spending more than ten years at Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth, where he began as a cellarman prior to working his way up to director of brewing operations.

"Austin brings a wealth of experience and technical brewing knowledge that we plan on capitalizing on," says Addison. "He is already working on improving our lab and quality control processes."

Heisch will take on the simple title of "brewer" at Pathfinder, which is a reflection of the humble approach Addison takes as the owner of a small, local brewery.

"We are so small, titles aren't a big deal," explains Addison. "Austin does the hard brewing work, while I do the easy stuff."

Staffing in general is currently a high priority for Addison, who hopes to add two sales representatives to the Pathfinder team. Once hired, one will work to expand on accounts currently serviced in Parker and Tarrant County, while another will focus on developing new relationships in Dallas.

Regarding the types of beer they'll be selling, Addison intends to continue taking inspiration from history while remaining loyal to classic styles. That said, there have been talks of expanding the company's current range.

"Several fruit brews are in the works, and we are just now discussing sours and hybrid beers," says Addison. "There are not limits; we brew what sounds like fun and what we think people want to experience, probably for the first time."

As for the aforementioned anniversary, Pathfinder will celebrate year two in late July with a variety of special releases, one of which is expected to be a barrel-aged Russian imperial stout.

Texas Ale Project promoting 70s theme for TAP Fest 2022

Image credit: Texas Ale Project.

Be ready to don your best vintage threads, as disco dancing may be on the bill when Texas Ale Project celebrates its seventh anniversary with a 70s-themed event in Dallas on Saturday, April 23.

TAP Fest 2022 will feature live music, food from Southern Gentleman's Table, and over 25 beers on tap - some of which will be new limited-edition beers.

In addition, attendees are encouraged to wear bell-bottoms, mini-skirts and platform shoes in order to compete for a prize package (TAP t-shirt, custom TAP glass, and one free beer) to be awarded for the top 70s costume.

“We are blessed to be thriving and now growing beyond the DFW Metroplex, into the Houston, Austin, and San Antonio markets," says Kat Thompson, co-founder of Texas Ale Project. "We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for.”

Admission prices for TAP Fest 2022 range from $20-$45 per person, with a VIP option offering buyers early access, priority parking, a take-home 6-pack, and a designated private VIP area.

Click here for more information, or to purchase tickets.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

By the Horns Brewing is back in Mansfield

All images Image © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

It's been nearly two years since difficulties with Covid-19 restrictions led to a decision to shut down the business, but the brew kettles are now back in action at By the Horns Brewing in Mansfield.

A social media post in June 2020 was the last word anyone heard before By the Horns went into hibernation. The brewery's future was further clouded once its parent company, Brain Storm Shelter, filed for bankruptcy protection to cover assets in other areas of the D-FW Metroplex.

Once the dust cleared, By the Horns had become the domain of Local Favorite Restaurants, a group whose portfolio includes El Fenix Mexican Restaurant, Snuffer's Restaurant & Bar, Village Burger Bar and more. At that point, Local Favorite's first order of business was to get the brewhouse back in order before hiring Nathan Crawford (formerly of Wild Acre Brewing Co. in Fort Worth) to head-up brewing operations going forward.

Local Favorite also attached a new food partner to the venture in the form of Del Toro BBQ. The latest entry in a crowded North Texas 'que market, Del Toro features a fairly standard range of BBQ offerings. Patrons can order prime brisket, ribs, jalapeno sausage and other smoked meats by the pound, or instead choose from a selection of salads, sandwiches or tacos.

As for the brewing side of things, five beers make up the everyday menu at By the Horns. Prior to the transition, brews were referred to by their style moniker (i.e., Hefeweizen, IPA, etc.), but a farm and ranch theme complimenting the 'que concept now enters into the naming of beers like Big Hoss IPA, Ranchhand Blonde Ale and Thresher Wheat.

There's also Te Amo Lager...you know, for the lager lovers, as well as Big Rig Stout, which is said to make an ideal pairing with Del Toro's Pork Belly Burnt Ends.

Other than that, the atmosphere remains much the same as it did when By the Horns first opened as part of The Backyard development in early 2019. Beers purchased at By the Horns can be enjoyed throughout the venue, which includes holdover Twisted Root Burger Co., as well as the newly-installed Taqueria La Ventana.

So...beer, BBQ, burgers and tacos? Sounds like quite a consumable quartet.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Celebrate seven years of small-batch beers at On Rotation

Images courtesy of On Rotation.

On Rotation Brewery & Kitchen of Dallas is set to celebrate seven years in business with a birthday bash on Saturday, April 9.

Originally opening as a small-batch production brewery (and wine bar) in early 2015, founders Jacob and Lindsay Sloan relocated On Rotation from Lakewood to the Braniff Centre at Dallas Love Field in mid-2021. This allowed them to expand brewing operations, while also adding a kitchen and other amenities to assume full brewpub status.

From the start, the company's reputation as a craft beer laboratory has been central to its success, something evidenced by the fact that over 340 different beer releases have occurred over the course of On Rotation's history. At first, the Sloans managed the mash paddle(s) in the brewhouse themselves, but day-to-day operations are now handled by Dan Heinzerling, an industry veteran with over 20 years of brewing experience in North Texas.

As for the coming event, it will serve as both an anniversary party and the unofficial grand opening for On Rotation’s home at the Braniff Centre, which never got a proper debut celebration due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Featured attractions will include lawn games, live screen printing, and of course, beer - with 15 house brews expected to be on tap, including two new releases, and a selection of beers created in collaboration with other local breweries like Cowtown Brewing Co. of Fort Worth, along with Celestial Beerworks and Vector Brewing of Dallas.

Festivities will run from 12 p.m. until midnight, and attendance is free. For more details, click here to view the official event post on the brewpub's website.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Armadillo Ale Works closing its doors in Denton

Image © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

After nearly a decade of "Representin' Denton", Armadillo Ale Works has announced today, Sunday March 27, will be the last day of operations "for a while, if not forever."

Bobby Mullins and Yianni Arestis launched the brand with a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2011. It would take until 2018 for Armadillo to secure a permanent location on Bell Ave. in Denton, but in the interim the company operated under production agreements at breweries in Dallas and Grapevine.

Armadillo's first commercial beers, Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale and Quakertown Stout, hit the market in early 2013. As was the case with many of the brewery's products, the names called attention to elements of Armadillo's hometown - in these instances, Greenbelt Trail, and the Quakertown community of the late 1800s (today commemorated by Quakertown Park).

Brunch Money, a pioneering imperial golden stout originally released in 2014, was arguably the brewery's most popular beer, but Honey Please received the most notoriety at national competitions. A mesquite bean blonde ale, Honey Please accomplished the rare feat of winning gold medals at both the Great American Beer Festival (2018) and World Beer Cup (2020). These accolades effectively recognized Honey Please as the best honey beer in America, and also the world.

A social media post cited financial impacts due to Covid-19 restrictions as a contributing factor to the closure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Vector Brewing set to celebrate Second Anniversary

Image courtesy of Vector Brewing.

Vector Brewing of Dallas is set to host its Second Anniversary party on Saturday, April 2, an event celebrating everything the company has experienced during its first two years of operation - awards, an engagement, fancy dinners, collaborations, concerts and even the return to normal.

The brewpub opened in spring 2020, at the dawn of the pandemic, when customers couldn't come inside. After having just finished construction, Vector had to completely change its entire business strategy and space to accommodate the early days of Covid-19. That meant to-go service, packaged beer and a handful of unknowns.

“We all stood in a circle and held hands,” says Veronica Bradley, co-owner of Vector. “I think there were only seven of us - nine if you include our children. And, we had no idea what to expect."

What happened next was, over 100 orders came flooding in within the first three minutes. The crew had never used any of their systems, so they scrambled to shut ordering off. It took them over four hours to catch up.

“We needed 15 people, at least,” says Craig Bradley, co-owner of Vector. “Two of our friends stopped by to congratulate us, and we hired them on the spot. They still work here today.”

Vector's upcoming birthday bash will feature live music, food vendors, and an artisan market, not to mention a selection of over 20 beers crafted by Head Brewer Tomás Gutierrez.

Rare barrel-aged beers will be among the offerings, some of which have been aging since before the brewpub opened. Plus, two new bottle releases will be available:

  • Domus Persica (6.8% ABV):  foeder-aged golden sour ale with local Texas peaches, Tahitian vanilla bean and cinnamon.
  • Neil Kvass Tyson: Death by Black Hole (6.5% ABV):  oak-aged mixed culture kvass farmhouse ale with Andean blackberry, blueberry, açai berry and black currants.

Click here for more information on the event, including details on the live music schedule, food truck lineup and artisan vendor roster.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Case closed for Legal Draft in Arlington

Image © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Six years after drawing up its initial drafts, Legal Draft Beer Co. has announced the closure of its taproom in Arlington.

Founded by Greg McCarthy and Curt Taylor, the company adopted a legal theme derived from McCarthy's background as an attorney. This, of course, was in evidence throughout the company's portfolio, with beers like Accused Amber Lager, Hung Jury Hefeweizen and Hazeas Corpus Hazy IPA being among Legal Draft's staples.

The sale of the brewery had been rumored in recent weeks, but no further details as to the potential future of the facility were shared in a social media post saying farewell. Remaining inventory is expected to remain available at local retailers until supplies are exhausted.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Taking in Cowtown's Southlake satellite taproom

Cowtown Southlake is located at 1512 E. Southlake Blvd, Suite 10. All images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Cowtown Brewing Co. has a good little thing going with its satellite taproom in Southlake. Open since late December, the spot sets up in a cozy and comfortable former Ginger Man space in Southlake Town Square. Essentially move-in ready, the site allowed the Fort Worth firm to basically turn the key on a new taproom location.

In terms of operations, it's all about beer and food service in Southlake, as no brewing equipment is installed onsite. Even so, there's plenty of Cowtown beer being brought in from Fort Worth. Upwards of 20 company beers are on tap at Southlake, with the lineup on par with what's being poured at the Belknap brewpub. The powers that be also haven't slacked off on the beer-to-go offerings, stocking a fridge with nearly as many drink-at-home options.

Now, Southlake isn't a full-bore craft barbecue joint like Fort Worth either, but you won't be going hungry by a longshot. Southlake's pub-like menu features shareables (nachos, sliders, brat bites), flatbread pizzas and handhelds (sandwiches and sausages), plus you can still get your smoked protein fix with Cowtown's classic BBQ Meat Sandwich.

As for the ambiance, Cowtown's Southlake surroundings follow the original Ginger Man blueprint, albeit with the walls now adorned in Cowtown regalia. Tables and chairs flank the bar on the ground floor inside, with additional second-level seating up top. The attached patio remains intact as well, for those who prefer to enjoy their beer and bites in the great outdoors.

Of course, the point of the place is to help expand Cowtown's reach beyond the brewpub's hometown borders. For those of us living in the far northeastern segment of the Metroplex, the drive to grab a taste of Cowtown gets cut down by about a third. So, on that point, at least for yours truly it's mission accomplished.

Most importantly, though, what makes a visit to Cowtown 2.0 all the better is the fact that there's no drop-off in quality and selection when it comes to the consumables.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Deep Ellum, Maple Branch honored at 2022 Best of Craft Beer Awards

Image credit: Best of Craft Beer Awards.

Winners have been announced at the 2022 Best of Craft Beer Awards competition, with two North Texas breweries earning honors for their brews.

Held in Bend, Oregon, this year's event took place March 4-6. A total of 482 breweries from around the world submitted 2271 entries for evaluation, with medals doled out across 55 different categories. As in prior years, judging was provided by a panel of BJCP judges, industry pros and vetted brewers.

Medalists from North Texas are summarized below. You can also click here for a complete list of winners.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Dallas

  • Dallas Blonde, Silver in the Golden or Blonde Ale category.
  • The Battle of Britain, Gold in the Barley Wines, Wheat Wine & Rye Wine category.

Cheers and congratulations to Deep Ellum and Maple Branch!

Friday, March 4, 2022

Beard Science spons new Wild Sour beer

Image credit: Beard Science Sour House/Truck Yard.

It's been just over a year since Beard Science Sour House opened its doors at Truck Yard in The Colony, setting itself up as the area's lone purveyor of strictly wild and sour beers. Quicker-to-market kettle sour beers have filled the tapwall to this point, but the first of many more long-term fermentations is now ready for release.

According to Brew Boss Dennis Wehrmann, exploring the wild and sour beer realm beyond things fast and furious was part of the plan at Beard Science from the start.

"I think the concept of a sour house, the way we planned to do it, you have to compare to how you would start a bourbon distillery," says Wehrmann. "If you make bourbon, it takes years until the product is ready, and it's the same thing with a sour house. Wild and sour beers take time to ferment and mature, so while waiting for these to develop, we've been making kettle sours as well."

From this line of perpetual liquid projects comes the brewery's new Wild Sour beer. Starting with a dark base, Wehrmann literally let nature take its course with the recipe by way of spontaneous fermentation. The resulting spon beer is tasty and tart with bits of barnyard funk, dark fruit (raisins, plums) and maybe a hint of apple.

"We fermented the beer in our wooden oak fermenter - it's open at the top, and it's not temperature controlled," explains Wehrmann. "This lets bacteria come in from the air and from the environment and they start feeding in there, building lactic acids and other things. We had it in the oak fermenter for about 10 days, and after that we moved it into one of our wooden foeders, where it sat for almost a year."

On that note, it's all about timing with these beers according to Wehrmann. You never know what you're going to get, so it's trial and error as you sample and taste in order to determine when to release any given beer. With this inaugural Wild Sour offering, Wehrmann hopes to get customers excited about the prospects of what's in store for the future from Beard Science.

And what exactly is to come, you might ask? Wehrmann has a Flemish red and a champagne sour beer currently resting in foeders, along with a rather unique spirit-like dark sour beer aging in Ironroot Republic bourbon barrels (think calvados). Of these, the champagne sour is earmarked for bottles, which will be filled and allowed to condition for a time leading up to a 2023 New Year's Eve debut.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Community premieres sizable new space in Pegasus Park

Public areas at Community include two large taprooms and a spacious
open-air biergarten. All images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

It's a big year ahead for Community Beer Co., as the brewery begins its tenth year of operation in Dallas. And, what better way to kick things off than to open the doors to a new building that anchors what's destined to become a local craft beer showplace.

Community debuted its brand in January 2013, after leasing a 21,600 square foot space on Inspiration Dr. in the Design District. Eight years later, the company announced plans for a big move, with the destination being a 70,000 square foot multi-use facility at 3110 Commonwealth Dr. in Pegasus Park.

"Big," if you haven't caught on by now, is the operative word here. Everything about Community's new home represents a massive upgrade compared to where the company did business before. Downstairs taproom...big. Upstairs taproom...big. Outdoor biergarten...big. Production area...really big. I haven't seen the barrel room/event space, but we'll just assume it's plenty big as well.

In other words, if you're in search of a spot for a large-scale craft beer gathering, Community's got ya covered.

Community standards like Mosaic IPA, Texas Lager and the new Texas-Style Bock
are available on tap or to-go, with cans and crowlers being take-home options.

On top of what there is to see now, there's still more to come. It's all about the beer at present, as patrons can enjoy a pint on the patio or in one of the two taprooms (each of which provides expansive views of the brewhouse). But eventually, further site amenities will include a live music venture outdoors, as well as a full-service restaurant called the Community Kitchen indoors.

Oh, and there's also the promise of wine and distilled spirits one day being created in house as well. In the meantime, though, beverage options consist of more than 15 beers on tap, along with pours of the brewery's Brite Side hard seltzer.

As for an official unveiling, the brewery's Grand Opening Bierfest is set for Saturday, March 5. The festivities will feature live music, food from Chef Kent Rathbun and the release of two commemorative beers. Tickets are on sale now at a cost of $15pp, or $30pp for premier privileges (click here to purchase).

If you can't wait to check things out, know that Community is now open six days a week, with service hours Tuesday through Sunday. Visit the brewery's website at communitybeer.com for more details.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Texas Ale Project expanding distribution network with Ambiente

Image credits: Ambiente Beverage, Texas Ale Project.

Texas Ale Project (TAP) of Dallas has announced a new partnership with Ambiente Beverage of Austin for the distribution of the brewery's craft beer and TAPWTR hard seltzer products in the Houston, Austin, and San Antonio markets – which includes the cities of San Marcos, Waco, Galveston, and College Station.

According to a press release, TAP is experiencing rapid growth, and the alliance with Ambiente is expected to supplement the brewery's marketing efforts throughout the state. 

“Ambiente is very pleased to continue to grow our craft beer portfolio with Texas Ale Project!" says Tristan Maldonado, president of Ambiente Opco, LLC. "We have been scouring Texas for great breweries and feel that Texas Ale Project is the perfect fit for Ambiente.” 

Earlier this month, TAP won a silver medal in the Texas Craft Brewers Cup for 100 Million Angels Singing (double IPA), and it will be among the brewery’s award-winning beers distributed to San Antonio, Austin, and Houston accounts starting spring 2022. New beers are also in the works, including a new limited edition Pantera collaboration, a new rotational series of IPAs, and a new flavor of TAPWTR hard seltzer. 

“We’re very busy around here – planning for new beers and new markets!" says Kat Thompson, founder & CEO of TAP. "I am excited to take this next big step in our growth with Ambiente. They are strategic in their approach to service and market coverage. The efficiency this partnership provides allows us to focus on making great beers and growing our brands.” 

To help make the brewery's strategic plan a reality, TAP will be hiring sales representatives to support the growth of the brand in these new markets. Regional bars, restaurants and retailers interested in carrying Texas Ale Project products can contact sales@texasaleproject.com or reach out to their local distributor.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Big D rotator now regular offering at Lakewood

The beer’s label features the "Big D Robot," a nod to Dallas' iconic Traveling Man
taking Big Tex and the Fair Park ferris wheel for a stroll (Lakewood Brewing Co.)

Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland has announced the release of Big D Double IPA, a permanent iteration of its popular rotating IPA series of 2021 that effectively served as a testing ground for this new year-round offering.

“Last year’s Big D series was a lot of fun for us and a way to experiment with what makes great IPAs,” says Wim Bens, president and founder of Lakewood. “The IPA landscape is always changing, but we think that balance is key to making an IPA that people want to keep coming back to. So, we created a wonderful balance of strength, hoppiness, flavor and aroma.”

According to a press release, Lakewood used copious amounts of a unique blend of hops, imparting big West Coast IPA hop character with a punch of tropical aroma. The resulting notes of orange, peach, and mango are said to ride a wave of balanced bitterness to create a surprisingly drinkable 8% ABV double IPA.

The beer is one of many new and limited releases to come from Lakewood, as the brewery celebrates its 10th year in business during 2022.

“I might be biased, but this is the best IPA we’ve come out with so far and it’s a perfect way to start celebrating our 10 years in beer!" adds Bens. "We have a lot us surprises in store for this year. I can’t wait!”

Big-D Double IPA is available now on draft and in six-packs of 12-ounce cans at the Lakewood taproom, with statewide distribution rolling out in the days ahead.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

North Texas takes 20 medals at inaugural Texas Craft Brewers Cup

Image credit: Texas Craft Brewers Guild.

The first ever Texas Craft Brewers Cup concluded this evening in Austin, with 12 North Texas breweries appearing among the winners.

Put on by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the inaugural competition was open to any Texas brewery meeting the Guild's Craft Brewer membership definition, but being an active member was not a requirement to participate. At this year's event, 755 entries from 131 Texas breweries were evaluated across 27 categories. The chosen groupings covered over 150 different beer styles combined.

Breweries from North Texas were awarded 20 total medals at the competition - 4 Gold, 8 Silver, and 8 Bronze. A complete list of local beers honored is provided below, or you can click here for a full competition summary.

Celestial Beerworks, Dallas

  • Technical Skillset, Gold in the Strong Hoppy Beer category.

Denton County Brewing Co., Denton

  • Small Town Strong, Bronze in the Barrel & Wood Aged Beer category.

False Idol Brewing, North Richland Hills

  • Spirit of Energy, Silver in the Hazy IPA category.
  • Law Enforcement Cheetah, Silver in the Session & Standard Hoppy Pale Ales and Lagers category.
  • 2 Live & Die in LA, Bronze in the American IPA category.

Lakewood Brewing Co., Garland

  • French Quarter Temptress, Silver in the Chocolate & Coffee Beer category.
  • Lakewood Live Vol. 3, Bronze in the Experimental, Hybrid & Specialty Beer category.
  • Tangerine Queen, Bronze in the Fruit & Field Beer category.

Maple Branch Craft Brewery, Fort Worth

  • Jack's Wandering Soul, Gold in the Fruit & Field Beer category.
  • Monkey Business, Silver in the Wheat or Rye Beer category.
Odd Muse Brewing, Farmers Branch 
  • Museverse, Gold in the Chocolate & Coffee Beer category.
  • 500 Pesos, Silver in the American & International Lager category.
On Rotation, Dallas
  •  Jalapeño Saison, Silver in the Smoke & Chili Beer category.
  • Velvet Hammer, Bronze in the Barleywine & Strong Ale category.
  • Moonsmoke, Silver in the Experimental, Hybrid & Specialty Beer category.
  • The Divine Monk, Bronze in the Belgian & Farmhouse Ale category.
  • 100 Million Angels Singing, Silver in the Strong Hoppy Beer category.
  • Urban Parakeet, Gold in the Session & Standard Hoppy Pale Ales and Lagers category.
  • Figment of Your Imagination, Bronze in the Decadent Beer category.
  • Flaaaaanders, Bronze in the Wood & Barrel-Aged Sour & Brett Beer category.

Cheers and congratulations to all!

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Eight regional, two grand champions crowned at 2021-22 USBTC winter event

Image credits: United States Beer Tasting Championship, Oak Highlands Brewery, Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.

Results have been revealed from the 28th Annual Winter Competition of the United States Beer Tasting Championship (USBTC). And, stop me if you've heard these names in relation to the USBTC before, but Oak Highlands Brewery of Dallas and Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth have once again found themselves among the winners.

This year's winter gathering drew 556 entries from 142 breweries, and judges evaluated those beers across 19 different style categories. Just as a reminder, the USBTC picks regional winners in each category during the competition (North Texas breweries compete in the Rockies/Southwest division), with chosen beers advancing to a final round to determine a national grand champion.

Overall, eight North Texas beers were named Regional Champion during the event. Two of those, Drunken Santa and Winter Warmer from Rahr & Sons, also went on to be named Grand Champion in their respective categories.

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

Oak Highlands Brewery, Dallas

  • White Wine Freaky Deaky, Regional Champion in the Non-Whiskey Aged Beer category.
  • Freaky Deaky, Regional Champion in the Belgian-Style Ale category.
  • Winter Warmer, Regional and Grand Champion in the Strong Ale category.
  • Drunken Santa, Regional and Grand Champion in the Holiday Spice Beer category.
  • Bourbon Barrel-Aged Winter Warmer, Regional Champion in the Whiskey Aged Beer category.
  • Iron Thistle, Regional Champion in the Scottish-Style Ale category.
  • Ugly Pug, Regional Champion in the Dark Lager/Dunkel category.
  • Rumpy, Regional Champion in the Spice Beer category.

Cheers and congratulations to Oak Highlands and Rahr & Sons!

Friday, February 4, 2022

Brew Aleworks aims for late spring opening in Granbury

Image courtesy of Brew Aleworks.

Residents of Granbury will soon have access to another source of locally-made beer, once a new brewpub opens in the city later this year.

According to owner Christian Piatt, development is underway on Brew Aleworks, a small-batch brewpub to be located in a 3000 square foot retail center space at 715 Autumn Ridge. Piatt, an already established business owner in Granbury, opened Brew Drinkery - a taproom and restaurant - there in January 2020.

As for Brew Aleworks, Piatt says the style of the place will have a 1920s Prohibition-era vibe. They'll offer a menu of upscale pub food (think gourmet burgers, wings and pizzas) served alongside beers produced on a seven-barrel system designed by Specific Mechanical Systems of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Recipes will focus predominantly on classic styles to start, with plans calling for a blonde ale, American amber, hefeweizen, hazy pale ale, Mexican lager and milk stout.

Piatt hopes to open Brew Aleworks in late May, or early June.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Craft Beer Careers job fair seeks to diversify Texas brewing industry

Images courtesy of Texas Craft Brewers Guild.

The state's first ever career fair focused exclusively on jobs in craft brewing is set to take place on Wednesday, January 26, at Hop & Sting Brewing Co. of Grapevine. Organized by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the event seeks to advance diversity and inclusion in the craft beer industry.

 "The last two years have been difficult on restaurants and breweries, and hiring continues to be a pain point,” says Samantha Glenn, co-founder of Funky Picnic Brewery & Café of Fort Worth and member of the job fair planning team. “This job fair allows breweries to get in front of candidates in order to plan for growth in their businesses and the brewing industry." 

Jobs at craft breweries go beyond brewing beer. These small, local businesses need diverse teams of professionals with a variety of backgrounds, skillsets, and interests to fill roles like general managers, office managers, accountants, marketing professionals, sales personnel, data analysts, hospitality and service, facilities managers, drivers, packaging technicians, and more.

“This job fair has a special significance for our organization,” says Meg Ellis, membership & business development manager for the Guild. "As a project of the Guild’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Subcommittee, we’re really striving to reach folks who may have felt like there wasn’t a place for them in our industry.” 

The craft brewing industry globally has struggled with social justice and gender equity issues over the past few years. The members of the Guild’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Subcommittee have a vision of a Texas craft beer industry in that is welcoming, reflects the diversity of the state’s population, and offers career pathways for any community member. 

“When we founded the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Subcommittee, one of our main focuses was to promote these values through education and awareness. Not only by words, but by actions,” says Sheila Garcia, co-chair of the subcommittee. “Our job fair planning team has cultivated an opportunity to connect breweries with job seekers in new segments within the community, who may have not been reached out to previously. The more diverse our employees are, the better our craft beer community becomes!”

The career fair features businesses and job opportunities from across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Participating sponsors from the region include: Armadillo Ale Works of Denton, Denton County Brewing Co. of Denton, Hop & Sting Brewing Co. of Grapevine, Funky Picnic Brewery & Café of Fort Worth, Siren Rock Brewing Co. of Rockwall and Texas Ale Project of Dallas.

Attendance is free for jobseekers, but space is limited and an RSVP is required. Visit the following link for event details and to register:  https://tickets.texascraftbrewersguild.org/e/craftbeercareersntx.

Jobseekers can also find and apply for careers in craft brewing any time at the Guild’s Texas Craft Brewing Industry Job Board: https://texascraftbrewersguild.org/jobs/.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Southern Roots extends reach from Waco to Waxahachie

Bar and table seating options exist along with the production area in the main room (top center) at Southern Roots.
A smaller room upfront (top right) may be reserved for private events. All images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Taking the first step in what looks to be an ambitious growth plan, Southern Roots Brewing Co. of Waco has established a second location in the North Texas suburb of Waxahachie. Now open at 421 S. College St. near the city's downtown district, the brewpub occupies a former freight depot dating back to the early 1900s.

Southern Roots debuted its original spot in fall 2018, making it a relatively young operation. Given that, it might come as a surprise to see the business branch out so early in its evolution. According to co-founder Dustin Evans, though, the plan all along has been to sow the seeds of the company in other markets rather quickly.

"We initially opened in Waco with the goal of opening several [other locations] within the next couple of years," says Evans. "We actually got delayed on that expansion due to COVID-19 (just like everyone else). With our emphasis being a taproom and restaurant experience, we felt like we could have several footprints across Texas."

On that note, for those who haven't visited, Southern Roots offers a selection of salads, wings and signature pizzas to go along with its portfolio of hand-crafted brews. A number of pies play off the brewpub's southern theme, with options like Southern Belle (Italian sausage, arugula, mozzarella, red pepper, honey) and Southern Sow (pulled pork, bacon, red onion, mozzarella, gouda, BBQ sauce) being among the offerings.

Surveying the beer side of things, Southern Roots has the capacity to tap upwards of 14 beers on an everyday basis. Here, state and local influences find their way into the naming of small-batch recipes emerging from a five-barrel brewhouse. Enjoyable examples include Hill Country Amber Lager and West of Czech Pilsner. Those beers are part of the brewpub's regular lineup developed in Waco, but patrons can expect local specialties to be brewed as well.

"We will keep all of our flagship beers on tap at both locations, however, we’ll split the other half of our local menu for 'Hachie' themed beers," says Evans. "We feel it’s really important to celebrate the town's history and definitely want to name/inspire beers on behalf of the community."

The building itself, of course, is also representative of Southern Roots' commitment to preserving the city's past. Then there's a chalkboard hanging in the brewpub's event area adding another bit of interest. This piece served as a scoreboard for a group of local friends who used to play dominoes in the space.

As for the future, Evans indicates the ownership group behind Southern Roots is already looking ahead with regards to the aforementioned growth plan.

"If all things go well," he declares, "we'll be getting started on our third location soon!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Tangerine Queen now reigning year-round at Lakewood

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland has announced the elevation of Tangerine Queen, an American wheat beer with orange peel and tangerine, to year-round status. This news coming fresh off the beer's debut as a new citrusy spring seasonal just last year.

“Since citrus are winter fruits, we decided to release Tangerine Queen at the peak harvest season,” says Wim Bens, president and founder of Lakewood. “Tangerine Queen was a huge hit for us last year, so we decided to make it a year-round offering. It’s just such an easy drinking beer with tangerine aroma up front, sweet citrus in the middle, and a soft finish. Perfect for any day of the year.”

To be available on tap and in six-packs of 12-ounce cans, a fresh batch of Tangerine Queen will begin appearing on shelves across Texas next month.

As for a seasonal replacement, word has it Lakewood has another Queen in the works for the coming spring.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Tulsa's NEFF Brewing now shipping five gluten-free beers to Texas

Image credit: Tori Graham & Ryan Graham - @beercatbrett.

NEFF Brewing, a dedicated gluten-free craft brewery based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is looking to call attention to its lineup of gluten-free beers now available across Texas. Gluten-free recipes from Neff Brewing first began appearing on North Texas shelves in July, with additional beers arriving this past fall.

According to a press release, NEFF Brewing's beers differ from other craft beers because they are brewed with a variety of grains and artisanal malts that are naturally gluten free. The company uses ancient grains of millet, buckwheat, rice, and quinoa to create beers that are allergen free, yet still crafted for full flavor to compete well with "regular" craft beers in the market.

Beers available locally include

  • Apollo Blonde - a crisp, easy-drinking American blonde ale.
  • Astronaut Cookies - an oatmeal stout with roasted coffee flavors, as well as mild chocolate and nutty notes.
  • Ignition Switch - a flavorful Belgian-style pale ale.
  • No Barriers IPA - a classic IPA with piney, dank and citrus-like aromas and flavors.
  • Raspberry Pride - a fruited kettle sour with a clean, refreshing raspberry flavor.

It's worth noting how a number of these beers have fared well in recent competitions, winning awards in non-gluten-free categories at both state and international beer competitions. Apollo Blonde (bronze), Ignition Switch (bronze) and Raspberry Pride (gold) were recognized at the 2020 Oklahoma Craft Beer Awards, while Ignition Switch (bronze) was also honored at the 2020 U.S. Open Craft Beer Championship.

Look for products from NEFF Brewing at craft beer-friendly retailers like Beer Geeks (Rockwall), Brü City (Euless), Bubble & Squeak Craft Beer & Wine (Forney), Craft Beer Cellar - Dallas, Southside Cellar (Fort Worth), The Bearded Monk (Denton) and more.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Funky Picnic pairs with Chef Victor Villarreal for beachy beer dinner

Chef Josh Rangel (left) and Sous Chef Parker Gordon (right) of Funky Picnic are partnering with Chef Victor Villarreal (center) for the brewpub's La Playa Beer Dinner. The culinary team worked with head brewer Michael Harper to pair the flavors of the beer and food (Funky Picnic Brewery & Café).

Funky Picnic Brewery & Café of Fort Worth will present its first beer and food pairing of the new year on Monday, January 24. The brewpub's La Playa Beer Dinner is set to feature five seafood and beer pairings curated by Chef Victor Villarreal of La Onda restaurant, and Chef Josh Rangel of Funky Picnic.

"One of the unique things that sets Funky Picnic apart is that we are the only restaurant in Fort Worth with a Certified Cicerone on staff, as co-owner Collin Zreet has been professionally trained in the art of pairing beer and food,” says Chef Rangel. “This is a similar certification to the Sommelier program in the wine world, and makes for a unique dining experience as we walk you through the flavor pairings of each course.”'

Each Funky Picnic beer dinner debuts a brand new beer created by head brewer, Michael Harper, specifically for the meal at hand. Harper works with the kitchen team on creating a unique brew that reflects the flavors and theme of the beer dinner. For this round, Harper and Chef Villarreal created a citrus farmhouse saison to pair with the cured salmon gravlax course.

“Chef Villarreal and I quickly hit it off and got excited about the idea of using charred citrus in a crisp and easy-drinking beer,” says Harper. “This farmhouse saison is very light-bodied with a huge pop of citrus and just enough malt body to keep things interesting, and will pair well with nearly any seafood dish.”

The La Playa Beer Dinner also includes ceviche salad paired with a citrus pilsner, and mango ice cream topped with short bread crumble and bowfin caviar paired with Funky Picnic’s latest Hazy IPA. Click here to see the complete menu and to reserve your seats for this culinary event (tickets are $90pp all-inclusive, or $70pp for just the food portion).

As for other gatherings Funky Picnic has planned, a Brewing Up Love Beer Dinner is on the calendar for February 14-15, followed by a Vegan Beer Dinner with Blue Zones Fort Worth on March 28.