Sunday, October 23, 2022

Say When Brewing swings open doors to new taproom in Denison

Image/Logo: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D, Say When Brewing.

Since its market debut in January 2021, Say When Brewing Co. of Denison has operated as a production-only entity. A new taproom addition, however, means patrons are now able to visit the brewery's location, which sits just steps away from the city's downtown district at 111. S. Fannin Ave.

When owner Jason Fulenchek introduced the Say When brand last year, he did so with a portfolio of stylistic offerings: Local Motive IPA, Oatmeal Blonde and Texas Penny Copper Ale. The trio was first tapped at Green Growler, a nearby beer and wine bar in Denison (currently relocating), and from there the Say When name has turned up on tapwall menus at dozens of draft accounts across the northeastern part of the Metroplex.

Now, of course, Say When has a tapwall of its own. Housing more than 25 taps, three of these are currently occupied by the aforementioned beers, along with two further options - Dawn of Eternal Peace (a toasty and tasty German-style märzen), and Say When Stout (a Russian imperial stout described as "velvet pajamas in a glass").

As for the rest of taproom and its surroundings, the public and production areas at Say When exist in a unified space filling roughly 4500 square feet. And it's a comfortable and characterful setting to say the least, with dark wood furnishings and old-world accents adding to the feel of a structure built in the 1920s. Plus, the eye appeal is further enhanced by stained glass windows calling attention to the city's past as an early connection on the Katy Railroad (a.k.a. the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, or the MKT).

Something else notable about Say When is how it seems to play the part of a hometown, neighborhood pub perfectly. One reason was a gathering of Denison locals, whose ranks remained steady as residents shuttled in and out during a pleasant Saturday afternoon. Some stopped for a quick beer, while others pulled up a chair to join in on a bit of casual conversation.

What sealed it, though, was when one of the owners of Green Growler was met with a collective chorus of "Norm!" upon entry, apparently having already established himself as the modern-day version of the ever-present barfly character from the long-running television series, Cheers. This scene giving the impression that the people of Denison have a place to go where everybody knows their name.

Should you wish to down a pint with the denizens of Denison yourself, Say When is currently operating its taproom on a soft basis, with hours Friday and Saturday. An official Opening Weekend celebration is set for early next month, with festivities beginning on Friday, November 4.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Two former Wild Acre brewpubs re-branding as Boozie's

Image credit: Boozie's Restaurant Group.

According to a social media post, plans have been revealed for the re-branding of two brewpubs formerly under the umbrella of Wild Acre Brewing Co. of Fort Worth.

In May of this year, Bishop Cider of Dallas announced the acquisition of assets belonging to Wild Acre. And at the time, it was noted that Bishop Cider's path forward involved only the continued operation of Wild Acre's original brewery and taproom on El Paso St.

Regarding the brewpubs - Wild Acre Camp Bowie and a planned location in Fairview, they transitioned to a new ownership group including Chip Stroup, director of operations for Boozie's, and David Hollister, who served as food and beverage director at Wild Acre Camp Bowie. The partners intend to move ahead with a new head brewer and a new brand name.

Once the process is complete, Wild Acre Camp Bowie will become Boozie's Brewery & Gourmet Sandwiches. This locale will maintain the menu as-is, with the only planned changes being expanded hours, a revamped audio/video system and the addition of mixed beverages.

As for the Fairview spot, it will take on the name Boozie's Brewery & Texas Fare. Culinary offerings will differ, with steaks, chops and other items presumably-inspired by the Lone Star State.

Brewing operations at both sites will be overseen by Bobby Mullins, co-founder of Armadillo Ale Works, which closed earlier this year in Denton. Mullins is a multi-award-winning brewer, having won four medals at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup combined. One of his creations, a mesquite bean blonde ale called Honey Please, is one of only two beers from North Texas to ever win a gold medal at both competitions.

Boozie's Brewery & Gourmet Sandwiches will remain closed at 6473 Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth during the transition, with an expected re-opening in early November 2022. A timeline for Boozie's Brewery & Texas Fare, to debut at 311 Town Place in Fairview, has not yet been shared.

Friday, October 14, 2022

A ten-year toast to the Temptress

Image credit: Lakewood Brewing Co.

Fresh off the celebration of its tenth anniversary, Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland is now a member of a select group. The company is one of only eight active breweries (more will join the list in 2023) to reach what is historically a rare milestone. Since 1857, the year the first known brewery was making beer in North Texas, less than 10% of those who opened have made it to the ten-year mark.

My introduction to Lakewood came when I met founder Wim Bens at a beer festival in early 2011. This was more than a year before the brewery made its debut in August 2012. Bens mentioned he was seeking feedback on test batches for styles being considered for Lakewood's opening day lineup. Subsequent meetings at Homebrew Headquarters followed, which led to my first taste of Temptress Imperial Milk Stout in June 2011.

Temptress was one of two stout recipes in the running, the other being a beer called King Henry. They originated from a split batch, Temptress finished with a London ale yeast prior to being sweetened with lactose and vanilla post-fermentation. King Henry, on the other hand, was unsweetened and fermented with a Belgian yeast.

Based on early returns, Bens would say, "We're leaning towards the Temptress."

Now 11 years later, Temptress has been a staple of Lakewood's portfolio since day one. And, according to sales director Kyle Jordan, it's the #1 selling craft stout in Texas (based on recent IRI data). Retail shipments of the beer total just under 23,000 cases per year, on average (draft sales are not included in this number).

Temptress itself is a rare breed as well, being one of only a handful of North Texas beers to be in continuous production for 10 years or more. Such longevity is impressive, considering how breweries must now operate in a market where consumers demand fresh, new releases on a daily basis.

Of course, it helps that Lakewood has kept things interesting for the whole of the last decade. Temptress has spawned over 10 different commercial varieties (not counting taproom one-offs), the best-selling versions since 2016 being Peanut Butter Temptress and French Quarter Temptress, in that order. It also forms the basis of one of the area's most sought-after barrel-aged beers, Bourbon Barrel Temptress.

Oh, and let's not forget the baked goods. Wackym's Kitchen, a locally-owned and operated bakery, took the beer and turned it into a confection, launching The Temptress cookies in May 2019.

Looking back over my notes from that initial tasting in 2011, I expressed the opinion that milk/sweet stouts were an under-represented style. At the time, this was certainly true since the only other one around was Left Hand Milk Stout -  an iconic representation of the style on the national level.

Well, after ten years of tempting local craft beer drinkers with its chocolatey goodness, I think it's fair to say Temptress is on its way to being recognized in a similar manner. That is, as one of the iconic beers of North Texas.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Funky Picnic reveals winners from their Smoke ‘Em Out Homebrew Competition

Image courtesy of Funky Picnic Brewery & Café.

Funky Picnic Brewery & Café has announced the winners from its inaugural Smoke ‘Em Out Homebrew Competition. Announced in July, the first-of-its-kind event was a collaboration between Funky Picnic and TexMalt, a fellow Funkytown firm that specializes in the production of locally-malted grains.

Area homebrewers submitted 24 beers to the competition, with entries ranging from traditional rauchbiers to smoky sour concoctions. Recipes were designed around a quantity of smoked San Jacinto 2-Row Heritage Malt, supplied by TexMalt.

A panel of eight judges, consisting of homebrewers, maltsters, general smoke beer enthusiasts and professional brewers from across Dallas-Fort Worth, narrowed those entries down to the top three. Winning beers, along with a Brewer's Choice selection are listed below. The Brewer's Choice honoree will brew the winning recipe at Funky Picnic, who will then release the beer in their taproom on a future date.

1st Place: Smoked English Porter, John Skelton.
2nd Place:  Smoked Irish Red Ale, Big Country Homebrewers Association.
3rd Place:  Juniper Berry Mixed-Fermentation Smoke Beer, Joshua Hayes.

Brewer's Choice: Smoked Irish Red Ale, Big Country Homebrewers Association.

Cheers and congratulations to all!

Sunday, October 9, 2022

2022 Great American Beer Festival celebrates 40 years of beer

Cheers to 40 years of beer at GABF (Photos © Brewers Association)!

Returning to its normal in-person format after two years of being competition-only, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) celebrated its 40th anniversary this weekend in Denver, Colorado. The event, which began in 1982 with just 24 breweries in attendance, played host to nearly 500 breweries in 2022.

The latter number was down significantly from pre-Covid times, when roughly 800 breweries were on hand in 2019. Attendance was limited for patrons as well, but even with curbs in place the Thursday night session was the first in recent memory not to sell out.

This resulted in a smaller event on paper, though it didn't feel less crowded considering the festivities took place in a smaller section of the Colorado Convention Center. Lines seemed longer at popular booths - think Dogfish Head, Firestone Walker and Russian River, not to mention the annual gathering of the masses for a microscopic pour of Utopias from the folks at Samuel Adams. 

Lower attendance also extended to local participants, with only four North Texas breweries present and pouring at the festival - 903 Brewers of Sherman, Denton County Brewing Co. of Denton, Peticolas Brewing Co. of Dallas and Twin Peaks Brewing Co. of Irving. While each enjoyed steady traffic, 903 was noticeably busy as it served a variety of slushy beers and sweet stouts to a lengthy and persistent queue.

An expanding presence outside of Texas has helped to raise the visibility of 903, as the brewery now distributes to over ten states in the country (with more to come). Plus, 903 was one of at least two hometown breweries to hold events at Denver accounts this weekend. The other being False Idol Brewing Co. of North Richland Hills, a group that is quietly working to build a larger out-of-state distribution network as well.

Regarding trends, while IPAs remain king, lighter beers seemed more in vogue this year. Given the season, you'd expect to find plenty of märzen and Oktoberfest beers, and there are always pilsners-a-plenty, but to my eyes Mexican-style lagers were also much more in abundance. There certainly didn't seem to be as many stouts (only a handful of which were of the pastry variety), and forget about finding any barleywines - I think I tried every one of the half-dozen or so listed on the MyGABF app. I guess bigger isn't better in the current market environment, though I did find a few gems...

Favorite beers included an Oak Barrel-Aged Flanders Red Ale from Moody Tongue Brewing Co. of Illinois (the ONLY Flanders on the floor), Kelly's Private Stash Barrel-Aged Barley Wine from Third Eye Brewing Co. of Ohio, and Sandstone Whiskey Barrel-Aged Baltic Porter from Well 80 Artisan Brewing of Washington. Oh, and for the obligatory IPAs - Spirit of the West from Westbound & Down Brewing Co. of Colorado, and Polar Bear Toenails from Precarious Beer Project of Virginia (both medal winners in 2022).

As for the competition, local results and a rundown of key numbers can be found below. Following that, I offer up my regular roundup of select taprooms I visited outside the festival.


Competition results

Judges evaluated 9,904 beers from 2,154 breweries during this year's competition, awarding 300 medals across 177 style categories. Once again, IPA categories garnered the greatest number of entries, with "American Style IPA" taking the lead, followed by "Juicy or Hazy IPA." Rounding out the top five were three German-based styles, those being "German-Style Pilsener," "German Wheat Ale," and "German-Style Maerzen."

Six breweries from North Texas brought home medals, which is the most area wins in a single year since 2015. For those curious, the graphic below shows how the region has fared overall at GABF since the start of the modern craft beer boom.

Source: Individual research.

First time winners in 2022 included 3 Nations Brewing Co. of Carrollton, Edgewise Eight Brewing of Weatherford, Maple Branch Craft Brewery of Fort Worth, and Windmills of The Colony. Among repeat honorees, Community Beer Co. of Dallas landed its sixth GABF medal, while White Rock Alehouse & Brewery of Dallas snagged its second.

Incidentally, the White Rock win is notable in that it occurred in the highly-competitive and second-most entered category, "Juicy or Hazy IPA," where it went up against 374 other hoppy brews.


  • Windmills for Sonidero - American Amber Lager.



Founders Stuart and Allyssa Maples and crew from Maple Branch Craft Brewery gather to celebrate their win (left), while owner Kevin Carr (right)
offers a thumbs-up after receiving Community Beer Co.'s award at the 2022 Great American Beer Festival (Photos © Brewers Association).

Taproom trips

  • My first brewery visit outside the festival was to what might best be referred to as the church of Colorado Springs craft beer. Local Relic Artisan Ales is part of a cooperative space set up inside a former church, which also houses a restaurant, along with wine and cocktail bars. Creative house beers at Local Relic are poured alongside a curated selection of guest taps - which on this particular day included beers from Jester King Brewery of Austin.
Local Relic's beers are available on tap, or in bottles to go. (Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).
  • Continuing explorations I began last year with a visit to Cabin Creek Brewing in Georgetown, Colorado, I once again sought out destinations with a bit of outdoor ambiance. Having good beer is one thing, but it certainly doesn't hurt to create a destination where an intangible or two is added to the taproom experience. Breweries like Red Leg Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs, along with Evergreen Brewery and Lariat Lodge Brewing Co. in Evergreen provide just that.
Left-to-right: Red Leg Brewing Co., Lariat Lodge Brewing Co., Evergreen Brewery (Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).
  • I've yet to visit the original location of Bruz Beers in Midtown Denver, but the company's satellite taproom off Colfax Ave. in Downtown may be my new favorite haunt. Hypeheads should seek their treasures elsewhere, because Belgian-style beers are the specialty here. Dubbel, tripel, quad, grisette, saison, bière de miel...the list goes on.
Belgians big and small are the specialty at Bruz Beers in Denver (Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).