Sunday, December 31, 2023

Jaquval, a new small-batch brewpub, now open in Bishop Arts

All images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

It may be surprising to learn that the Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff has never been home to a brewery. This, despite the Dallas neighborhood's long history of celebrating local beer, especially during the years it hosted the Brew Riot Homebrew Competition. Today though, thanks to the work of Jason Roberts and Amy Wallace Cowan, it's an element the neighborhood is no longer missing.

Jaquval Brewing Co. is the newest concept from Cowan Roberts, a partnership behind three other businesses operating in Bishop Arts: A.J. Vagabonds, Oddfellows and Revelers Hall. In fact, Jaquval slots into a spot directly adjacent to Oddfellows at 312 W. 7th St.

And, since the subject is bound to come up, knowing how to say the name Jaquval is just a matter of knowing what it's all about. You see, Jaquval is a play on the idea of being a jack-of-all trades kind of place. To that end, once an attached deli called Trades is up and running in about a month (thus, bringing together the Jaquval Trades vision), crews on site will bake their own bread, brew their own beer, roast their own coffee beans, smoke their own meats and more. Output will feed Jaquval, as well as its two sister businesses on the block.

The small-batch brewhouse at Jaquval is installed along the brewpub's back elevation.

Of course, beer is always the word of the day here, so it should be mentioned that brewhouse recipes are the domain of Justin Hatley, who comes to Jaquval after more than a decade at Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland. For Jaquval, he'll produce four "Main Stays," along with an internationally-inspired slate of "Rotational" offerings.

In line with the plan, everyday beers will consist of Bishop Arts Lager, Iron Swan Porter, Rabble Rabble Coffee Stout and The 405 West Coast IPA, while the rotator menu currently teases a Honey Butter Hefeweizen, Czechmate (Czech amber lager), Bon Bière (French-style pilsner) and This Charming Ale (English best ale).

A pairing of Rabble Rabble Coffee Stout with the brewpub's Grilled Sausage Plate.

As far as the vibe at Jaquval, the look both inside and out is reminiscent of a quaint old-style tavern. Dark wood furnishings and accents intermingle with a quirky decor made up of what's best described as a little of this, a little of that, and whatever else they could find to put up on the walls. It's a pub, with proper pub food (burger, fish & chips, French dip, sausage plate), and not anything like a sports bar.

Fittingly then, amenities at Jaquval include just one television, a chess board, and a hand-operated turntable (at least for now). In other words, outside of special events, patrons visiting Jaquval for a beer and a bite should expect to fill the time with conversation and camaraderie. But hey, they say fostering a sense of community is what a pub is all about.

Jaquval has been operating on a soft basis up to now as it introduces items on its menu, but look for the spot to officially open later this week.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

2023 Year in review: Record movement in and around The Metroplex

All logos and graphics the property of their respective owners. Image: Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Let there be no doubt, it's been a dynamic and challenging year in the North Texas beer industry, with new highs recorded in both openings and closings among the roster of local breweries. The news isn't all bad, but it isn't good either, as breweries on the cusp have gone public with struggles and even resorted to fundraisers in an effort to stay afloat.

Taking stock, an increase in closures shouldn't come as a surprise. For several years, market headwinds have been a hot topic of discussion in industry groups, with the Brewers Association at the forefront sounding the alarm.

What's causing the headwinds? In addition to the after-effects of the pandemic, the BA points to slowing demand, declines in draft sales, and reduced shelf space for craft beer at retailers. Increasing competition exacerbated by the influx of other alcohol segments is certainly playing a role across the board, but the draft and retail bits have been a factor for some time. These being a catalyst to the rise of taprooms and the push for passage of beer to go legislation.

Locally, reasons for closing have mostly centered around the familiar refrain of the pandemic's influence on inflation, the supply chain, and staff retention. Increased operating costs aggravated by rising rents have convinced some to decline lease renewals, while undercapitalization and a general lack of local support have contributed to the demise of others.

Given the choppy waters, what maybe is surprising is the continued momentum behind new projects. Some current owners say they never would have opened a brewery if met with today's market environment at startup. Even still, a new breed of undeterred entrepreneurs appears ready to take on the difficulties of a crowded market in the midst of a flat growth period.

And there, perhaps, is an important point. Some see the rate of closures and start talking shakeout, but so far this isn't like how the bubble burst on the brewpub era of the late 1990s. In that case, the number of breweries in North Texas dropped by half over the course of five years, with no one waiting in the wings to fill the gaps. This was followed by an extended period of industry stagnation.

Right now, things have simply leveled off after a decade of continual growth, with openings and closings offsetting. So, will the trend continue, will the number of wort wranglers rise again, or is there a reckoning still to come? Pundits will have their predictions, but only time will tell.

With that, let's dive into more details on the 2023 year in beer.

The Business of Beer - Local Dealings

In response to the headwinds, the BA has suggested a need to innovate, while also engaging in strategies to reach new and existing customers with new flavors and new experiences. Indeed, as we've seen in recent times (and past year in review articles) local breweries have been doing just that since before the pandemic.

For example, most locals have explored new flavors beyond beer, like hard seltzer, hop water and kombucha. A list of items introduced in 2023 would include Society Spirits - an in-house small-batch spirits program at Community Beer Co. of Dallas, the expanded line of branded spirits (produced by a local distillery) at Rollertown Beerworks of Celina, "Oh, Snap" craft sodas at HopFusion Ale Works of Fort Worth, and Palo Pinto Craft Cocktails from Martin House Brewing Co. of Fort Worth.

On new flavors in beer, it's worth mentioning a brewery that stepped far outside of its comfort zone in 2023. Four Bullets Brewery of Richardson, traditionally a maker of English-inspired ales, brewed a hazy IPA for the first time in its eight-year history. The company's Ace in the Haze IPA debuted in early December.

There's also the topic of low-ABV or non-alcoholic beers, which up to now have only been attempted by a few producers (Community Beer Co. of Dallas, Funky Picnic Brewery & Café), the latest being Turning Point Beer of Bedford, who just days ago dropped The Reverend Green, a non-alcoholic West Coast IPA.

Of course, pairing those beverages with food is another avenue for adding flavor. Among the food-service enhancements for 2023: Say When Brewing Co. of Denison began offering made-to-order pizzas in July, while Division Brewing of Arlington opened an additional spot across from its production facility, where they've been serving a menu of house-made burgers and pizza since October.

Shifting the focus to new experiences, five local brewing companies added new locations in 2023. Union Bear Brewing Co. of Plano kicked off the year by announcing plans to open a restaurant-only location in McKinney sometime in 2024. This was followed by news in September surrounding the acquisition of Armadillo Ale Works' former facility in Denton. Union Bear's taproom there is still under construction, but beer production started in October.

Elsewhere, White Rock Brewing Co. of Dallas unveiled new digs off Beckley Ave. in April, 3 Nations Brewing Co. of Carrolton opened an Anna satellite in September, Soul Fire Brewing Co. of Roanoke launched its Cleburne space in November, and Bankhead Brewing Co. added to its roster of brewpubs in Rowlett and Fort Worth with a Farmers Branch locale in December.

As for others upgrading aspects of their brand experience, Happy Hippie Brewing Co., transitioned from an alternating proprietorship at Hop & Sting Brewing Co. of Grapevine to its own brick-and-mortar location in Richardson, the opening act taking place there in October.

And, while it's on a smaller scale, Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery of Garland literally propped up its taproom experience with the installation of a rooftop deck. Completed in October, it's proven to be a popular spot for elevated imbibing.

Looking ahead to 2024, Glen Echo Brewing of Wylie, Black Hawk Brewery of Prosper and Three Wide Brewing of Fort Worth are weeks away from opening. The same can be said for Tupps Brewery, as they put the finishing touches on a new site in McKinney.

On the horizon: Balanced Rock Brewing of The Colony, Bearded Ax Brewery of Midlothian, Beer Geeks Brewery of Fate, East Dallas Brewing Co. of Dallas, Forney Brewing Co. of Forney, Smittox Brewing Co. of Dallas, Texas Foothills Distillery of Bowie, Toasty Bros. of Denton (permanent location) and Village Creek Brewing Co. of Rendon.

The Business of Beer - Statewide Statistics 

The 2022 economic update from the Brewers Association has Texas ranked fourth in production nationally (up from sixth in 2021), with 1.3 million barrels produced (up from 1.13 million). Statistics related to the state's total brewery count in 2022 were flat compared to 2021: 407 breweries (up from 406), 1.9 breweries per capita (down from 2) - ranking 47th (steady). 

On total economic impact, Texas was third (steady), contributing over $4.5 billion to the economy (down from $4.9 billion). The state's brewing industry employed just over 27,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2021 (down from 30,000), paying almost $1.3 billion in wages and benefits, with an average annual salary of $47,237 (down from 1.5 billion and $49,984).

For 2023, tracking shows nearly 60 new brewery openings across Texas (up from ~40 in 2022), with 30 or more closures (likely a low count, considering a fair percentage would be from North Texas alone).

Image/Data: Brewers Association.

Comings and Goings

In North Texas, there were 16 new openings offset by 14 closings and consolidations during 2023.

Regarding the latter number, the consolidations qualifier is used to account for acquisitions or cases where active companies have reduced their number of licensed locations. Examples include the acquisition of Grapevine Craft Brewery by Hop & Sting Brewing Co. in 2018, and the assumption of Noble Rey Brewing Co.'s portfolio by Nocona Beer & Brewery in 2019.

There's also Malai Kitchen, who consolidated brewing operations in Southlake under the new Malai Brewing moniker, after the company had previously managed other licensed locales in Dallas (expiring in 2022) and Fort Worth (expiring in 2023). Consolidations also occurred this year at White Rock Brewing Co. and Pegasus City Brewery of Dallas.

Geographically, new projects still target suburban areas, but the City of Dallas landed four developments this year - the most for "Big D" since 2018. Fort Worth, conversely, hasn't been home to a new opening for over two years. As for the future, both cities appear in the list of breweries either under construction or development, viewable by clicking the "In Development" tab at the top of the page.

Summing up the overall state of affairs entering 2024, there are now 93 active brewing operations in North Texas. After accounting for side projects and breweries with multiple locations, consumers can pick from 90 different brands of local beer in the market.


New Locations (not counted as a new opening):

New Taprooms (not counted as a brewery opening).
  • Anvil Brewing, Royse City  (satellite location for Pittsburg, Texas-based brewery).
  • Voodoo Brewing Co., Grand Prairie  (franchise location for Pennsylvania-based brewery).

Permanent Closures:


Taproom Closures (not counted as a brewery closure).

Source: Individual research.

The Year in Beer 
  • Beer meets sportsball

    Local breweries produced a number of beers inspired by local college and pro sports organizations in 2023.

    Pony Pils from Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland: Inspired by the alma matter of founder Wim Bens, a portion of proceeds from sales will go to the LBC Future Brewer STEM Scholarship at Southern Methodist University (SMU).

    Hell's Half Lager from Fort Brewery and Pizza of Fort Worth: This beer was created in collaboration with local apparel company, Hell's Half Acre Stadium Goods, for the sole purpose of raising funds for the Flying T Club at Texas Christian University (TCU).

    The 133 Premium Pilsner from Rollertown Beerworks of Celina: Inspired by the grassroots fan group known as Rangers.Nation on Instagram, who helped cheer on the Texas Rangers' run to a World Series championship, this beer "celebrates the passion and dedication of this pioneering group of local baseball fanatics."

  • Fool's Game

    In one of best surprise moments of the year, members of the local industry came together for a fun April Fool's Day prank. Over 15 area breweries adopted the colors and designs of others for the day, posting the resulting logos for all to enjoy.

    All logos and graphics the property of their respective owners. Image: Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

  • Ten-year toasts

    Those reaching the 10-year anniversary milestone in 2023 included Community Beer Co. of Dallas, Martin House Brewing Co. of Fort Worth, and 903 Brewers of Sherman. A sampling of what each was serving on opening day in 2013:

    903: The Chosen One (coconut cream ale), Roo's Red (hoppy red ale).
    Community:  Pale Ale, Public Ale (ESB), Vienna Lager.
    Martin House: Day Break 4-Grain Breakfast Beer, The Imperial Texan (double red IPA), River House Saison.

    Celebrating 10 years in 2024: Malai Kitchen of Dallas (brewing operations now take place in Southlake), Panther Island Brewing of Fort Worth.

    Celebrating 20 years in 2024: Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth.

  • North Texas award winnersClick here for summaries of award-winning beers from 2023, with competition results from the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup, Texas Craft Brewers Cup, Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer, North American Brewers Association International Beer & Cider Awards, United States Beer Tasting Championship and U.S. Open Beer Championship.

  • The 2023 list of Beer in Big D's preferred pours (new-to-market, or newly-discovered beers some blogger particularly enjoyed): Armor Smoked Porter, Beard Science pHunky pHlemish, Celestial Sonus, False Idol Velsigne, Funky Picnic A Haw-Haw-Haw-Haw in Billy Gibbons' Voice, Martin House Obsidian Eclipse, Rollertown Dunkel, Three Empires Amber's First Time, Turning Point 2023 Barrel-Aged Stout, Vector Schützenkönig, Windmills Black Market Liver, Wriggly Tin Oro Moro.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 15, 2023

Bankhead opens newest brewpub in Farmers Branch

Bankhead's name recalls the Bankhead Highway, an early roadway which ran through
Downtown Rowlett - the company's origin point (All images: © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Adding to its roster of locations in Fort Worth and the original in Rowlett, Bankhead Brewing Co. has opened its newest brewpub in the spot formerly occupied by Cedar Creek Brewhouse & Eatery at 13090 Bee St. in Farmers Branch.

Bankhead's approach to expansion, thus far, has involved acquiring brewpubs that have recently closed. Ownership took a mostly turn-key approach to its takeover of Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s Funkytown Fermatorium in Fort Worth, but it seems they may have jiggled the key a bit more when planning out how to fit into Farmers Branch.

While changes outside focus on signage, renovations on the interior involved a re-work of the two-story, 6000+ square foot space. In addition to swapping out furnishings and adopting a darker color motif, the old bar setup downstairs was removed and replaced with a new service counter aligned with the south wall.

A darker color palette adorns the interior of Bankhead's brewpub in Farmers Branch.

There's even an old model-T Ford, à la the brewpub's logo, that's been split in half and installed as decor around the elevator shaft. And though it's not ready just yet, the lift and an adjoining staircase will provide upstairs access to what's set to evolve into a lounge-like locale. Here, the brewpub will host events like weekly trivia nights, while also setting the stage for live, local music acts to perform.

Shifting gears to the brewhouse, some may notice the hardware in this room has both literally and figuratively risen to new heights. The production system has been revamped with new equipment, the setup now incorporating an array of stackable fermenters which reaches to the ceiling.

From within, beers brewed onsite pour from one of 20 handles on the brewpub's tapwall, with the everyday lineup expected to contain long-standing Bankhead standards with automobile-inspired names like Low Beams (light lager), Devil Wagon (German helles) and Wheel's Off IPA. And let's also not forget Hoofer's Hef (German hefeweizen), a two-time award winner at the Great American Beer Festival.

Among the consumables at Bankhead Farmers Branch: Buddha's Mantra, a Belgian witbier, and the brewpub's Brussel & Chicken Salad.

Remaining aspects of the menu follow suit in offering selections likely familiar to fans of Bankhead, with food options comprising pizzas, burgers, sammies, soups, salads, featured entrées and desserts (plus a kids menu). Then for drinkables beyond the beer, a cocktail and wine range is also available.

Something else worth mentioning is this: if Farmers Branch has one advantage over its sister sites, it's probably the second-floor patio section. Patrons seated there are able to couple the ambiance with the brewpub's quality craft beer and culinary fare for an elevated brewpub more ways than one.

Bankhead Brewpub opens daily in Farmers Branch, with hours beginning at 4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, and 11 a.m. from Wednesday to Sunday.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Austin-based beers from Meanwhile making their way to the Metroplex

Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Recently, a new box of beer mail appeared at my door, this time courtesy of Meanwhile Brewing Co. of Austin. The premise was an introduction to the brand, with the catalyst being a collaboration beer the company made with Celestial Beerworks of Dallas.

If you were not already aware, Meanwhile's products have shown up here in the past, but fresh shipments are now making their way to the Metroplex. Cans began appearing on shelves of select retailers in mid-November, with draft selections following close behind.

Three of the beers contained in my sample pack have been among those delivered to area locales. Each represents a year-round offering from Meanwhile, with two having been awarded medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

  • Secret Beach - San Diego Style IPA (6.2% ABV): My favorite beer of the bunch, this West Coast-inspired IPA is kind of a throwback in being dank and slightly bitter with notes of tropical fruit and orange marmalade. Secret Beach brought home a silver medal in the American-Style Strong Pale Ale category at the 2022 GABF.
  • Tender Robot - Hazy IPA (6.2% ABV): A recipe featuring four types of malt and four hop varieties produces a pleasing hazy IPA with a mix of citrus and tropical fruit flavors and a mild finishing bitterness.
  • Meanwhile Pilsner - German-Style Pilsner (4.8% ABV): Light, easy to drink and refreshing while displaying a range of subtle complexities including elements of grain, bread dough and lemon zest set against a floral and grassy background. Meanwhile Pilsner won a gold medal for German-Style Pilsener at the 2021 GABF.
Now, just to be complete, beer number four was the aforementioned collaboration and an Austin exclusive. For that one, a partnership was formed to create Celestial Flirtation (10.5% ABV), a huge triple hazy IPA which debuted at Meanwhile's recent third anniversary celebration.

As for the distribution plan, reps at Meanwhile say new beers will drop locally roughly once a month. Locations receiving stock up to now are listed below, but consumers can also click here to view the most up-to-date listings by way of the Beer Locator on the brewery's website.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Beard Science set to release first pHunky beer in bottles

Beard Science's new beer is brewed to the proper pH for a
Flanders red (photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

The first fruits of a project begun within a few months of when Beard Science Sour House originally opened at Truck Yard The Colony are now ready to be enjoyed, as the brewery is set to release its first bottles filled with a beer that began resting in a foeder onsite during February 2021.

Introducing pHunky pHlemish (5.8% ABV), a wine-like Belgian-style beer brewed with the characteristics of a traditional Flanders red in mind. In other words, it's not an over-the-top modern take on the style, but rather a sour and fruity beer (red plums, black cherries, red currants) with appropriate subtlety and nuance.

"To me, it drinks like a pinot noir, with that kind of wine character," says Brew Boss Dennis Wehrmann. "And, it's not JUST a sour beer where it punches you in the face with acidity. It's just right, and I even think people who don't like sour beers would enjoy it."

Packaged in a 600-count limited run of 750mL flip-top bottles, pHunky pHlemish will debut at Beard Science on or before Friday, December 8, with a price point of $18 per bottle. Plus, a small amount of the beer will be placed on draft, allowing patrons to try before they buy.

Of course, this is just the beginning with regards to bottles at Beard Science - these extended aging efforts take time, after all. Next on the list, a dark sour beer aged in bourbon barrels from Ironroot Republic Distillery of Denison will make its way into bottles over the next few months.

And speaking of barrels, there's more to come on that topic as well. Six weeks ago, Wehrmann and the Truck Yard team travelled to Kentucky to take part in a special barrel select program.

"We chose three barrels from Weller, Stagg and Eagle Rare," says Wehrmann. "The bourbon inside will be available in our facilities, but I'm getting all three barrels to age beer in."

Plans are still being finalized, but the expectation is one or more barrels will house a sour beer at Beard Science, with another to be located at the company's sister site, Second Rodeo Brewing, in Fort Worth.

Indeed, these are busy times at both Beard Science and Second Rodeo - where, incidentally, a recent expansion added two new tanks to what is now a "maxed out" production area. Wehrmann himself says they have "lots going on," and while there may actually be more to talk about down the line, we'll save those stories for another day.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Wriggly Tin adds new wrinkle to the Dallas beer scene

All photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

On a Saturday in December 2019, a spot local beer lovers had come to know as Small Brewpub closed its doors in Oak Cliff. It was a unique little place (literally), with good food and an eclectic range of brews borne out of what, at the time, was one of the more creative approaches to beer-making in the local scene.

It was a loss, but there were rumblings another chapter would be written down the road. Time passed, with word eventually getting out that Small co-founder Aaron Garcia and partner Jacob Boger were working on a new habitat on S. Haskell St. in the shadow of Fair Park. Small Brewpub would not return, but Small Beer Works was now a thing as part of a new project called Wriggly Tin.

Small patrons once wondered if beers like Black Pepper Pils and Underdog IPA would see the light of day again. Four years later, these indeed appear along with other creations (Oro Moro Dark Lager, Hart German Helles) on the menu at Wriggly Tin, which officially opened earlier this month.

Wriggly sets up as an attractive destination for patio pours near Dallas Fair Park.

So, what exactly is a Wriggly Tin?

Well, if you're talking about what inspired the name of the place, it has to do with the corrugated sheets of iron covering the half-circle shaped structure the brewpub calls home. The U.K. military called these wavy or wrinkled sheets of metal wriggly tin.

If you're talking about Garcia and Boger's vision for the business, though, Wriggly Tin is a "cocktail, wine, and pizza joint that also sells Small Beer Works beer."

And, that's just the sort of vibe you get upon visiting. With the brewhouse hidden beyond the dining room and kitchen indoors, house beer production is only one Small part of a larger scheme. Whether it be lager-leaning recipes designed for a more diverse range of beer drinker, the universal appeal of pizza offerings from Chef Desmon Coleman, or all the little touches coming together to shape the entirely handmade decor, the approach celebrates "what the common people of the world love."

Denizens of Dallas love a patio too, by the way, and Wriggly Tin has one checking all the boxes of an urban beer oasis.

Enjoy beer offerings like Hart, a German-style helles lager, inside the dining room or outside in the open air.

Also important is the welcoming nature about the place, starting with the attentiveness of the staff, which includes knowledgeable beer tenders willing to guide patrons through sample sips as they decide on an order. The presence of ownership actively circulating through the crowd, something seemingly more and more rare, was noticeable as well.

It all makes for the kind of place you want to settle in and stay awhile...not just for a quick beer and a bite, but more for an evening of dinner and drinks without distraction (no televisions were sighted). Perhaps this explains why Wriggly Tin is only open late afternoons and evenings (Wed-Sun, 4 p.m. - 12 a.m.) leading into the weekend.

Wriggly Tin may not be a full-on revival of Garcia's former business, but the new venture is driven by the same guiding principles behind what became a craft beer fan favorite. So essentially, it's a new space with an old soul, and that's no small thing. Then again, a "Small" thing is probably exactly what it's meant to be.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Brutal Beerworks closing in North Richland Hills

Image credit: Brutal Beerworks.

Brutal Beerworks has announced it will close its brewery in North Richland Hills.

Founded by Eric Johnson, Sallie McIntyre and Jason Perez, the company opened in July 2019 as the first brewery in the city. From there, Brutal Beerworks embraced a more modern approach in featuring an ever-changing lineup of hazy IPAs, stouts, and the brewery's popular Gusherz line of fruited sour beers.

As apropos as it is given the circumstances, the Brutal name was a reference to the difficulties in opening and maintaining a brewery in the face of market challenges and other everyday responsibilities. That message coming through loud and clear in a social media post sharing the news.

"We’ve fought tooth and nail to keep the brewery going, but due to our lease coming to an end and rent prices shooting through the roof, we are no longer able to keep moving forward. "

Operations will continue through the final day of business on Saturday, December 2.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Shannon Brewing Co. closes in Keller

Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Shannon Brewing Co. of Keller is now closed.

Founded by Shannon Carter, the self-named business debuted in September 2014. The brewery was unique in using a fire-brewing process to produce its beers, which were made with pure Texas spring water from a neighboring bottler.

In terms of marketing, Carter's own personal heritage influenced the firm's slogan, "Texas Brewed with Irish Roots," as well as the choice of its flagship offering, Shannon Irish Red. Other popular beers in Shannon's portfolio included the company's Chocolate Stout and Irish Coffee Cream Ale.

A private equity group, NTX Cask Mates, acquired Shannon Brewing Co. in early 2023. Carter remained active in day-to-day activities until July, at which point he moved on to pursue other endeavors. Operations continued on until just recently, but ultimately the decision was made to discontinue the brand.

Despite the news, Shannon Brewing Co. enjoyed a longer run than most in the North Texas market, its closure coming after a full nine years in business.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

False Idol medals at 2023 Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer

Image credit: False Idol Brewing.

Marking its territory as the site of arguably one of the area's better barrel programs, False Idol Brewing of North Richland Hills has been honored with an award at the 2023 Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer (FOBAB).

Started in 2003, FOBAB is put on by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. The event is the largest and most distinguished festival of its kind in North America. At this year's competition, over 300 entries were submitted, with brewers vying for awards across 12 distinct categories.

False Idol received a bronze medal for Two Faced Terror (14% ABV), an English-style barleywine aged for 17 months in bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill Distillery, and then for another 7 months in barrels from 1792. The beer was a limited batch released by the brewery in late October - cans of which sold out quickly.

For more on the 2023 FOBAB, click here to view a complete list of winners.

False Idol Brewing, North Richland Hills

  • Bronze for Two Faced Terror in the Barleywine/Wheatwine category.

Cheers and congrats to False Idol Brewing!

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Temptations on tap during Stout Month at Lakewood

Images courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Today is International Stout Day and it marks the beginning of Stout Month at Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland.

The festivities will feature tappings of new exclusive brews all month long, as well as the availability of several Temptress variants including Sin Mint, French Quarter, Gingerbread, Double Stuffed, S'mores and Pumpkin Spice Latte Temptress.

Then, once December arrives, Stout Month will conclude with the return of the ever-popular Bourbon Barrel Temptress (BBT). As in year's past, the brewery will host two days of events celebrating the release, with BBT VIP Day happening on Friday, December 1, followed by BBT Day on Saturday, December 2. The weekend also will feature the introduction of Temptress Light. 

More details will be shared on Lakewood's social media channels in the coming weeks, but for now a schedule of November releases is provided below.

Thursday, November 2
  • Balcones Bourbon Barrel-Aged French Coast Temptress with Boysenberries.
  • Dry Stout.
  • Live Vol. 3 - Norwegian Imperial Stout with Juniper Berries and Honey.
Thursday, November 9
  • Balcones Barrel Temptress aged in a Tequila-Finished Rye Whiskey Barrel.
Thursday, November 16
  • Balcones Barrel Temptress aged in Single-Malt Whiskey Barrel #14140.
Friday, November 24
  • Balcones Barrel Temptress aged in Bourbon Barrel #18313.
Friday, December 1 - Saturday, December 2
  • 2023 Bourbon Barrel Temptress.
  • Temptress Light.
  • Various vintages of Bourbon Barrel Temptress.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Ash & Ember closing brewery in Cedar Hill

Image credit: Ash & Ember Brewing.

Ash & Ember Brewing of Cedar Hill has announced it will permanently close on November 18.

Brian Krajcirovic and Timothy Martin launched Ash & Ember in June 2020, making it the first known brewing operation to exist in the city. The partners, who had been homebrewing together since 2013, opened Ash & Ember hoping to establish a small, family-friendly pub with a Cheers-like atmosphere. A sign reading "Cheers Cedar Hill" was even hung in the taproom.

Doors opened at Ash & Ember at the height of the pandemic, and the aftereffects of that event were cited as a contributing factor in the closure, according to a social media post.

"We started with a vision of bringing our passion for traditional and delicious craft beer to our community, and we achieved that goal. However, the pandemic wreaked havoc on small businesses and breweries everywhere, and we were no exception. Despite our best efforts to pivot and adapt, we faced ongoing challenges that hindered our operations and growth. Now, due to significant cost increases, we have no choice but to close."

Happy Hippie opens far out fermentation firm in Richardson

All photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Completing the journey to opening a brick-and-mortar location, Happy Hippie Brewing Co. has pulled back the curtain on its new permanent home at 500 Lockwood Dr. in Richardson.

For anyone unfamiliar, Happy Hippie got its start after entering into an alternating proprietorship agreement with Hop & Sting Brewing Co. of Grapevine in 2019. From there, first beers hit the market in early 2020, with more than 10 different recipes eventually making their way into the firm's portfolio over the course of the last three years.

Now, those behind Happy Hippie - a group comprising Michael and Kellie Frederick, Scott and Happy Schwieterman, and Dave and Jess Steckel - can entertain family, friends and fans of the brand in the comfort of their own groovy little hippie pad in the Lockwood neighborhood of the city's Core District.

Happy Hippie operates inside an 11,000 square foot structure. Roughly half is dedicated to the
taproom, which features a spacious seating area flanked by the service bar and an indoor stage setup.

So, what's the new place like? Well, in terms of vibe, clearly a chill and laid back atmosphere is the order of the day. Honestly, it couldn't have been more appropriate that a Grateful Dead ditty came over the sound system literally the second I sat down. Bandleader Jerry Garcia is the patron saint of Happy Hippie, and what might be the brewery's most popular beer, Captain Tripels (Belgian tripel), is a nod to Captain Trips himself.

Given that, along with the playing of other tunes by early 70s artists, and the prominent stage setup anchoring one end of the taproom, it should be clear music is central to the concept. If not, maybe also consider past beer names featuring the song titles "Friend of the Devil" (the Dead) and "Smoke on the Water" (Deep Purple).

Those weren't on tap at opening, but a list of beers that were included Captain Tripels, Honey Magnolia Witbier, Marmalade Sky Blonde Ale, Rich Ale and Wa-Hotter Melon IPA. And while Captain Tripels might be the strongest beer of the bunch in terms of ABV, the punchiest flavor profile emerged from the watermelon and habanero-infused Wa-Hotter Melon IPA. In fact, the latter had a bitter edge on the order of an old-school West Coast IPA.

Beer workings, by the way, are brought to you by director of brewing operations, Nick Thomason. A homebrewing veteran with more than 15 years of experience under his belt, Thomason is formulating the fermentations at Happy Hippie using hardware supplied by ABE Equipment of Nebraska.

Once production is in full swing, beers will pour from as many as 12 tap handles at Happy Hippie.
Flights and full pours are available, with to-go selections presumably set to occupy a fridge adjacent to the bar.

As for other site amenities, widescreen televisions encircle the interior allowing for the viewing of sports and other events at Happy Hippie, with board games provided as an additional diversion. There's also a patio area for those who prefer open-air imbibing.

With regard to grub, food trucks will be the primary purveyor. Bites on grand opening weekend were served by Guitars & Growlers, a fitting partner since the pub's Richardson spot has acted as Happy Hippie's adopted taproom since its inception. Their menu offers a variety of appetizers (fries, onion rings, sweet potato nuggets), entrees (bratwurst, smash burgers, street tacos, wings), kids meals (chicken nuggets, hot dogs), and a Cream Cheese Filled Churro for dessert.

Indeed, taken together, what Happy Hippie has created is a songful space designed to inspire patrons to commune with other like-minded craft beer drinkers. To that end, you're invited to "Find Your Tribe" at the brewery during operating hours from Wednesday through Sunday.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Rollertown breaking out The Cypher for upcoming B-Boy Battle

Image courtesy of Rollertown Beeworks.

Rollertown Beerworks of Celina has teamed with Battle Grounds, a community-based group rooted in hip hop culture, for the Second Annual Rollertown B-Boy Battle, an incredibly unique, high-energy event taking place at the brewery on Friday, October 20 at 6 p.m.

According to a press release, organizers are looking to elevate the experience by building off the success of the inaugural event last year while celebrating breaking’s inclusion in the 2024 Olympics. Attendees can expect incredible dance-offs, world-class technique, and one-of-a-kind performances by talented breakers from across the state. The event will take place outside under a large tent to increase visibility for spectators, and there will be a 3 vs. 3 competition with a larger grand prize of $1,500.

“This event embodies why we wanted to start Rollertown in the first place,” says Jeff "Skin" Wade, co-founder of Rollertown. “We have a long history of fusing together things we’re passionate about. And providing our guests with the essence of true Hip-Hop culture fills us with so much pride and excitement.”

To commemorate the event, Rollertown will release a new beer called The Cypher (10% ABV) as part of its Back to the Lab Experimental IPA Series. This imperial hazy IPA is made with copious amounts of wheat and oats, a clean American pilsner base malt and a mix of Bru-1, Citra and HBC-586 hops. The result is said to present with a velvety body and powerful hints of pineapple, mango and lychee.

Appropriately, the beer is named as a tribute to a "cypher," an open-circle warmup prior to the battle where the group communes while people take turns executing freestyle moves. The cypher (or cipher) has deep cultural roots in hip hop culture and beyond.

Leo J, a prominent figure in the breaking community who will perform at the event, also expressed his enthusiasm for the upcoming festivities.

"After the huge success of last year's event, I am happy to partner with Rollertown for a second year in a row," adds Leo J. "With breaking making its debut in the 2024 Olympics, it makes events like these even more important for the breaking community as fans of the culture can get an up close and personal view of the artform."

The B-Boy Battle is free for attendees. Apart from breaking and music from DJ Leo J, there will be food from Cane Rosso and Cheddr Wheel, and pop-ups from Josey Records, DFW Vintage Swap Meet and more. Rollertown encourages early arrival to ensure a good viewing spot, as the event is expected to draw a very large crowd again this year.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Black Fox now stalking just off the square in Denton

All photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

Black Fox Brewing Co. of Texas has opened in the location previously occupied by Howling Mutt Brewing just off the square in Downtown Denton.

Michael Velasco, a veteran and homebrewer of more than 20 years, took over the space at 205 N. Cedar St. in May. All it took was a new permit, a little paint and some polish to get the site re-branded and up and running again.

Along those lines, visitors of the former tenant will be met with a familiar scene at Black Fox. The barroom centers the place, flanked by the production alcove on one side, and a lounge-like spot (still being decorated) on the other. These smaller indoor areas (1200 square feet total) are then supplemented by an enclosed, open-air patio out back.

Black Fox's opening day lineup features a variety of light-to-moderate ales.

Naturally, house beers are the brewery's primary attraction, but select wines and non-alcoholic beverages are also available. A half-dozen brews make up Black Fox's initial lineup, with styles focused on light-to-moderate offerings. Menu options include easy-drinking blonde, pale and red ales, along with an IPA and a stout. And on the topic of favorites, while patrons overheard at other tables seemed taken with the Dirty Cursed Blonde, my tastes leaned more towards Black Fox Stout.

Speaking of which, Velasco's first foray into commercial brewing came when he participated in the Homebrewers League program at Barley & Board in Denton during 2018. The recipe Velasco brewed was Black Fox Stout, a beer he described as a straight-forward American-style stout purposely designed as a back-to-basics kind of thing, which nowadays represents a rarity in a market filled with adjunct-heavy alternatives.

As for when to visit and experience one of the region's newest brewing operations for yourself, Black Fox plans to provide service five days a week, with operating hours Wednesday through Sunday.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Big Spray closing brewpub in Princeton

Image credit: Big Spray Brewing.

After a nearly three-year run, Big Spray Brewing is preparing to close its doors in Princeton.

Owned by Doug and Evelyn Abbott, Big Spray began serving the locals in late 2020. The idea was to create a neighborhood haunt offering good food and good beer in a laid-back atmosphere.

The overriding theme at Big Spray was derived from Doug's background as a competitive water skier. In fact, the presence of a residential water skiing community in Princeton was what inspired the Abbott's to move to Texas in the first place.

Along those lines, elements of the sport were evident in the brewpub's ski-shaped tap handles and flight boards, as well as in everyday beer offerings like Deep Water Porter, Driver Buoy Blonde, and 15 Off Red (representing the length of a ski rope).

According to a social media post, the last day of food service at Big Spray will occur on Friday, October 20. Representatives will pour house beers for the final time at Princeton Fall Fest on Saturday, October 21.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Rollertown partners with Rangers.Nation for playoff pilsner

Image courtesy of Rollertown Beerworks.

Rollertown Beerworks of Celina, the brewery owned by Ben Rogers and Jeff “Skin” Wade of The Ben & Skin Show on 97.1 The Freak, announces a collaboration with the grassroots fan group led by superfan Jake DuPre known as “Rangers.Nation” on Instagram. The result of this partnership is a beer that "celebrates the passion and dedication of this pioneering group of local baseball fanatics."

Following Jake’s lead, Rangers.Nation concentrates the team’s most energetic and vocal fans in Section 133 of Globe Life Field. Creating an infectiously-raucous environment, this group has had a tremendous impact on the in-game environment and has brought a playoff-like atmosphere to regular season home games in Arlington. 

To celebrate this group’s passion and impact on the local baseball culture, Rollertown is releasing a commemorative beer called “The 133 – A Celebration of The Nation.” A crisp, clean, crushable premium pilsner, this beer was brewed in Celina and is designed to go perfectly with a ballgame.

Commenting on the release, Roger says, “I’ve been a diehard fan my entire life. From Jeff Burroughs to Oddibe McDowell to Juan Gonzalez to Michael Young to Adolis Garcia. And now, to be a part of a magical baseball beer that embodies the glorious energy of a full-stadium “NA-PO-LI” chant on a brisk October night in Arlington is truly an honor.”

DuPre adds, “This beer is the perfect symbolization of the rowdy, enthusiastic, and exciting culture of Section 133. What better way to celebrate a victory than with a cold can of The 133? I know how I’ll be celebrating my 21st birthday while watching the Rangers this October!”

"The 133" will be available on tap an in cans starting October 6 at Rollertown's taproom in Celina. Four-packs of cans will be also available exclusively at the Frisco H-E-B, allowing fans to sip on this beer as they rally behind their favorite team.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Walking Beam closing brewery in Bridgeport

Image credit: Walking Beam Brewing Co.

Walking Beam Brewing Co. of Bridgeport has announced it will close at the end of business on Thursday, October 5.

Founded by John Townsend, Walking Beam became the first brewery to exist in Bridgeport when it opened in February 2019. It was a small-batch operation, as indicated by the slogan "brewing a barrel at a time in Bridgeport."

At least initially, Walking Beam identified a true brewpub with a full-service kitchen on site. Food service ceased in June of this year, the kitchen's closing a pre-curser to a change in approach which promised a new and improved experience for local patrons.

As for the brewery's name, Walking Beam referenced the pivoting arm of a pumpjack in calling attention to the Texas oil industry. The oil patch influence extended to the branding of brewhouse offerings like Pumpjack Pale Ale, Roughneck Red, Well Kill Milk Stout and Wildcatter Wheat.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Three Empires plants its flag in Frisco

All photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

A brewery has finally come to fruition in Frisco, as Three Empires Brewing Co. is now pouring its brand of beer in the city’s downtown district at 6990 Main St.

Residents of Frisco have long been thirsting for a brewery, and while a handful of projects have targeted the city over the past ten years, not a single one evolved past the planning stage. The drought is now over, though, thanks to the efforts of husband and wife, David and Mandalyn Wible.

So, what was the response like on their debut weekend? Let's just say locals are welcoming Three Empires with open arms. Standing room only crowds filled the brewery on opening day, which led yours truly to postpone a visit until Sunday. Even then, early arrivals were assembled outside before the doors even opened. This, a prelude to another packed house.

Once inside, five beers were on the menu. According to the Wibles, Frisco Blonde and Betty White Ale (witbier) were the most popular among patrons, but my favorite was probably one based on the first recipe the couple ever brewed, a bready amber ale called Amber's First Time.

It's all about the beer at Three Empires Brewing Co. in Frisco, with Spike Brewing
equipment lining one wall and hop-themed light fixtures hanging from the ceiling.

Overall, counting two others on my flight board, Steps Day (American pale ale) and Dirty South Stout, I'd describe the offerings at Three Empires as every day kind of beers. Each was easy-drinking and enjoyable with good balance, relatively low strength, and just the right of complexity to keep things interesting.

At the same time, for those looking to stir things up a bit, syrup infusions are available allowing customers to add raspberry to Betty White to create "Blanche," strawberry lemonade to Frisco Blonde to make her "Blush," or toasted marshmallow to Dirty South Stout to say "Gimme Gimme S'more."

As for what lies ahead at Three Empires, a mango margarita seltzer and two IPAs are currently in the works (Tangerine Speedo American IPA and Juicy Booty NEIPA). Other styles, including lagers, are likely to rotate in later, but for now the aforementioned eight brews will fill out the starting lineup.

Also, once production completes on the IPAs, an official grand opening will be planned, and opening times may expand to include evening hours on Thursday and Friday. Keep an eye on the brewery's social media channels for details on those items to be shared in the coming weeks.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Armor has craft beer covered in Allen

All photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D.

After breathing new life into a shuttered brewery, Mike and Jennifer Todryk are on the verge of officially opening Armor Brewing Co. in Allen - a sister business to their Armor Coffee Co. in the city. We'll say officially since preview events are currently ongoing at the space, which by now everyone knows was once home to Nine Band Brewing Co. at 9 Prestige Circle.

Any reminders of that company are now long gone, and we're not just talking about a fresh coat of paint on the grain silo. The Todryks have literally reimagined the place, making changes to the form and overall function of the operation. This shouldn't come as a surprise, though, considering the couple's association with the show No Demo Reno  on HGTV.

What was once a simple taproom and adjoining brewhouse, now presents as more of an entertainment venue. A full kitchen has been added, taking over the old patio area along the rear elevation. Then out front, a new and greatly expanded outdoor space has been installed, complete with canopies for coverage and string lighting for evening ambiance.

The site and structures of the former tenant have been completely reimagined to create Armor Brewing Co. in Allen.

The interior revamp also includes redesigned dining and bar areas, a dedicated retail section (for merchandise and beer to go sales), and an alcove featuring an advanced pub gaming setup with Winmau dart boards and Dartsee interactive electronic scoring displays.

Regarding sustenance, Armor offers an ample assortment of food and drink selections as well. The lunch and dinner menu has starters, greens, Wagyu smash burgers and handhelds, these supplemented by a collection of sides and sweets. Plus, there are kids' meals for little ones, and specialty plates (steaks, chops, chicken and fish) for patrons seeking something a bit more elevated are served after 5 p.m.

Liquids range from non-alcoholic options (tea, soda, milk, root beer) to boozier boosts provided by wines, Armor-crafted and dessert cocktails, a curated whiskey and bourbon list, and of course, house beers.

Food and drink options at Armor include the Smoked Turkey Melt (center) and an
Italian Pilsner (left), along with Enigma Sticke Altbier and the brewpub's Smoked Porter.

On that note, the beer side is handled by head brewer Brian Martin, who arrived in Texas after plying his trade at various breweries in Virginia. He's got upwards of 24 taps to work with daily at Armor, with a portfolio so far consisting of a dozen recipes. Naturally, IPAs occupy several slots on the tapwall, but there are also German styles (gose, hefeweizen), an Italian pilsner, and a pair of imperial stouts (one made with Armor coffee).

Of those sampled, favorites were Enigma, a sticke altbier, and the sublime Smoked Porter. Both won awards for Armor in the months leading up to its opening, and judging by the execution of those and others, more medals may very well be in the brewpub's future.

As for the opening, Armor Brewing Co. is set to go live as early as next weekend. Keep an eye on the company's socials for the most up-to-date details, and if you go, be sure to raise a glass to the welcome renewal of brewing activities in Allen.