Thursday, December 29, 2022

2022 Year in review: The North Texas beer scene soldiers on

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One year ago, North Texas seemed on the cusp of eclipsing 100 breweries for the first time in history. Local brewers were still navigating a business climate impacted by the pandemic, but somehow nearly all managed to keep the beer flowing. Only three closures were recorded in 2021, which seemed remarkable considering the predictions of doom and gloom passed around by industry pundits the year before.

That said, some believe bills deferred could still be coming due, which means the ultimate tale of the pandemic and its impact may yet to be told. Case in point, pandemic pressures were specifically cited in the majority of the seven closures occurring throughout 2022.

Still, with six new openings, the local industry didn't take a step back as much as it simply held steady over the course of the last 12 months. As a result, the century mark still looms, but it remains to be seen if brewers will be able to sustain and build on current numbers in the face of market headwinds stemming from supply chain issues, cost inflation, staffing challenges and more.

So, who opened and who closed in 2022? Moreover, who's making moves to take their business to the next level? All will be revealed below, along with the annual economic snapshot, a short summary of storylines from the year in beer, and my usual rundown of favorite local pours.

The Business of Beer - Local Dealings

If there's one thing we've learned in recent times, it's that visiting a brewery is no longer just about bellying up to the bar for a pint of freshly-brewed beer. Indeed, the taproom experience has become a focal point, which makes sense considering it's where breweries stand to make the most profit on their output.

With that in mind, the 2021 year-in-review piece brought up how breweries were taking steps to attract new customers, expanding beverage offerings to include hard seltzer and/or kombucha, while also adding guest ciders and wines to their menus. And, let's not forget those non-alcoholic options for the little ones, designated drivers, or those who simply prefer not to drink and just want to hang out with the crowd.

Nevertheless, while a diverse lineup of drinks is a good thing, the availability of other attractions may be what keeps patrons from finishing a pint or a quick flight, then seeking further diversions elsewhere.

Along those lines, providing dedicated on-site food service is one way production breweries have supplemented operations the last couple of years, something in evidence with the 2022 introductions of the Taproom Eatery at Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland in July, and the Restaurant & Beer Garden at Wild Acre Brewing of Fort Worth in October.

Incidentally, changes at Wild Acre came to pass after Bishop Cider Co. of Dallas acquired the company's assets in May. Plans called for a renewed brand focus centered around the brewery's original El Paso St. location. With that, Wild Acre's Camp Bowie brewpub and a future Fairview site were passed on to new ownership. After rebranding, Boozie's Brewery & Gourmet Sandwiches of Fort Worth will be the first of these two entities to open on January 2.

Surveying other incremental upgrades undertaken in 2022, Funky Picnic Brewery & Café of Fort Worth unveiled The Back Room, an adults-only speakeasy attachment in September, while Say When Brewing Co. of Denison welcomed visitors into a comfortable and characterful new taproom setting in October.

Then, of course, there are cases where desired enhancements don't fit a brewery's existing space. Here, owners work from fresh blueprints to design all-new destinations with food, drinks, entertainment and other amenities available on site (think concert venues, vendor markets, expanded greenspaces, etc.). The sizable new campus premiered by Community Beer Co. of Dallas in February fits the mold, as will new large-scale facilities in the works for 903 Brewers of Sherman, Tupps Brewery of McKinney, and Rollertown Beerworks of Celina (in Frisco).

Expansion takes a different form for breweries pursuing satellite locations, where new customers are attracted through increased brand visibility. Cowtown Brewing Co. of Fort Worth went this route with the March opening of its Southlake taproom, with others to follow in the coming year as 3 Nations Brewing Co. of Carrollton establishes a presence in Anna, and Bankhead Brewing Co. of Rowlett builds its third locale in Farmers Branch.

Beyond that, Union Bear Brewing Co. of Plano is also at work on expansion ideas, and there are rumblings Manhattan Project Beer Co. of Dallas is considering a second spot as well. Oh, and don't be surprised if a recently-celebrated East Dallas brewpub suddenly announces the imminent opening of a second location on the opposite side of town.

As for other goings on, two firms currently operating under an alternating proprietorship at Hop & Sting Brewing Co. of Grapevine are hoping to construct their own brick-and-mortar buildings in the near future: Toasty Bros. of Denton, and Happy Hippie Brewing Co. of Richardson.

The Business of Beer - Statewide Statistics 

Brewers Association data from 2021 shows Texas ranking sixth in production nationally, with 1.14 million barrels of beer produced (up from 1.02 million in 2020). The state's total brewery count of 406 is 7th-best, but per capita numbers still lag (rising to 2 from 1.8 in 2020) as Texas continues to linger towards the bottom with a ranking of 47 in this category.

Moving on to total economic impact, Texas ranked third (steady compared to 2020), contributing over $4.9 billion to the economy. The state's brewing industry employed nearly 30,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2021 (up from 24,000 in 2020), paying almost $1.5 billion in wages and benefits, with an average annual salary of $49,984.

Image: Brewers Association.

Comings and Goings

For the first time since 2013, openings in North Texas numbered in the single digits, with only six new brewing companies debuting in 2022. Not only that, closures exceeded openings for the first time since the dawn of the modern craft beer boom (an era beginning with the opening of Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas in late 2011). It's worth mentioning, though, that the facilities of at least four reported closures will live on under new ownership as noted below.

Much like last year, new breweries are sprouting up in primarily suburban areas, with only a single new operation taking root in the larger cities of Dallas or Fort Worth in 2022 (10 out of 14 new openings in 2021 were in the suburbs). This trend is expected to continue, as the majority of the more than 20 future projects in development are being built in the 'burbs (click here for a list of breweries either under construction or in the planning stage).

Certainly, some upstarts are driven by a desire to operate outside of the competitive epicenters, but economic incentives are playing a role as well, as local governments look to attract businesses that will hopefully bring in more out-of-town visitors.

As for the total numbers entering 2023, there are now 93 active brewing companies in North Texas. Take into account side projects and breweries with multiple locations, and that translates to 91 different brands of local beer available for sale in the market.


Brand Debuts (not counted as a new opening):

Brand Revivals (not counted as a new opening).

New Locations (not counted as a new opening):
Permanent Closures:
  • Lead Belly Beer, Dallas.
           - Was a side project at Deep Ellum Distillery of Dallas..
  • Motorboat Brewing Co., Addison.
           - Was operating under an alternating proprietorship with Bitter Sisters Brewery of Addison.
  • Wild Acre Camp Bowie, Fort Worth.
           - New ownership in place, re-branding as Boozie's Brewery & Gourmet Sandwiches.

Source: Individual research.

The Year in Beer 
  • Heady local headlines

    January - Long-time Dallas brewery snatched up in Monster deal: Monster Beverage Corporation, maker of Monster Energy drinks, acquired CANarchy Craft Beer Collective, LLC in a move which includes the assets of Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas.

    March - Sour house shows its spontaneous side: Beard Science Sour House of The Colony debuted its Wild Sour, a beer featuring a complex mix of flavors derived from spontaneous fermentation.

    May - North Texas gets taste of first locally-crafted NA beer: Produced by Community Beer Co. of Dallas, Nada is a non-alcoholic IPA brewed with Mosaic, Sabro and Simcoe hops. The beer went on to win a silver medal in the Non-Alcoholic Beer category at the 2022 Great American Beer Festival.

    May - Pantera plays to craft beer crowd: The legendary metal band from Arlington expanded its relationship with Texas Ale Project of Dallas, announcing a new limited-edition series of Pantera-branded beers.

    July - A hot dog-flavored hard seltzer? What's the wurst that could happen? National media attention, Oscar Mayer offering a hot dog hook-up and more...all in a day's work at Martin House Brewing Co. of Fort Worth.

    July - North Texans can finally get Hammer-ed at retail: Well, Velvet Hammer-ed, that is. After a decade in business, Peticolas Brewing Co. of Dallas began limited retail distribution.

    September - Dallas beer honors Holocaust survivor: Jerzy, a Polish-style lager, from Celestial Beerworks of Dallas celebrated the life of Jerry Rawicki, a Holocaust survivor and grandfather to two members of the Celestial family.

    December - Reviving a local legend: Turning Point Beer of Bedford released Apricot Petite Golden Sour from The Collective Brewing Project, reproducing the recipe using equipment acquired from the former Fort Worth brewery.

  • Trending topics

    For today...

    If there was a trending style in 2022, it might be Cold IPA. Originally brewed by Wayfinder Beer of Oregon, Cold IPAs are designed to be dry, hoppy and bitter, with a crisp, clean finish. They are low gravity beers fermented at warmer temperatures with a lager yeast, while incorporating flaked rice and/or corn in the grist. Feel free to insert your own thoughts about how a Cold IPA is warm (like a Black IPA is dark, pale ale).

    North Texas breweries that have dabbled in the style since late 2021: Celestial Beerworks, Denton County Brewing Co., False Idol Brewing, Funky Picnic Brewery & Café, HopFusion Ale Works, Manhattan Project Beer Co., Oak Highlands Brewery, On Rotation, Soul Fire Brewing Co., Siren Rock Brewing Co., Turning Point Beer, Vector Brewing.

    Available now (according to the latest tap lists): Denton County Texas Cold Front, False Idol Energy (multiple variants), Manhattan Project Cold War.

    For tomorrow...

    Non-alcoholic beers are showing up more and more as a trending topic, but North Texas brewers have yet to hop on this particular bandwagon. Issues with cost, complexity, and the need for additional equipment, along with concerns about shelf life are perhaps the among reasons why the category has been slow to develop locally.

    Outside of Community Nada IPA, perhaps the only non-alcoholic beer to be released by a North Texas brewery, Funky Picnic Brewery & Café explored the low ABV (< 1%) realm with a low-alcohol barrel-aged peanut butter stout called All the Fluff, None of the Fun.

  • Not enough Noise in North Texas

    Only two area breweries, both based in Fort Worth, chose to participate in the Brave Noise effort. This collaboration originated in 2021 with the goal of fostering a safe and discrimination-free beer industry.

    Fort Brewery & Pizza released their take on Brave Noise Pale Ale in May, with proceeds supporting The Ladder Alliance. Neutral Ground Brewing Co. followed with their beer in June, which benefitted The Women's Center of Tarrant County.

  • Ten-year toasts on tap for 2023

    The list of names celebrating 10-year anniversaries in 2022 consisted of Peticolas, Lakewood, Cedar Creek, Revolver and Four Corners. From that group, products locals have been drinking for a decade include Four Corners Local Buzz, Peticolas Velvet Hammer, Revolver Blood & Honey, Elliot's Phoned Home Pale Ale from Cedar Creek, and The Temptress from Lakewood.

    Celebrating 10 years in 2023: Community Beer Co. of Dallas, Martin House Brewing Co. of Fort Worth, and 903 Brewers of Sherman.

  • North Texas award winnersClick here to review award-winning beers from 2022, with competition results from the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup, Texas Craft Brewers Cup, Best of Craft Beer Awards, North American Brewers Association International Beer Awards, United States Beer Tasting Championship, U.S. Open Beer Championship, U.S. Open Hard Seltzer Championship and more.

  • The 2022 list of Beer in Big D's preferred pours (new-to-market, or newly-discovered beers some blogger particularly enjoyed): 903 Almond Cookie Stout, Division DIBS, False Idol Perceptual Contortion, Lakewood Lion's Share X, Maple Branch Ringleader Barrel-Aged Doppelbock, Oak Cliff Red Wine Barrel Sombre, Odd Muse Barrel-Aged Woodpecker Lips, Pegasus City Brewha Flanders Red Ale, Rollertown The Magic Number 3, Vector Apfelholz Smoked Helles.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

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