Sunday, May 28, 2023

Voodoo Brewing brings Pennsylvania pours to Grand Prairie

Tranquil Breezes, a West Coast-style pale ale, is one of over 20 beers on tap at Voodoo Grand Prairie (all photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Voodoo Brewing Co. of Pennsylvania announced its intent to enter the North Texas market a mere two months ago, which makes you wonder if they've got some kind of mystical magic at work, considering the brewery's first satellite taproom is already open at 1015 Ikea Pl. in Grand Prairie.

Plans for Voodoo Grand Prairie were first revealed here in late March. Since then, it's been reported that additional Voodoo locations may follow, with the cities of Fort Worth, Plano, Prosper and beyond on the company's radar.

As for Voodoo's debut in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the Grand Prairie locale is independently owned and operated by local franchisee, Roland Rios. He's overseeing a spot occupying just under 4,000 square feet in a retail development across the street from the city's Ikea furniture store.

Inside, patrons looking to take a shopping break, or perhaps seeking to soothe the stress of an afternoon assembling modular furniture, can expect to be met with a rather comprehensive menu of consumables.

Left: Chicky Chicky Bang Bang, a tikka masala fried chicken sandwich, is one of several "handies" served on a craft beer bun.
Right: A variety of Voodoo beers are available to go in cans. Select barrel-aged bombers are on sale as well.

On the food side, options begin with appetizers, burgers, pizza, wings, salads and sandwiches (or "handies"). Then there are a number of items featuring beer infusions, whether it be the beer cheese mac, beer cheese queso, beer mussels, or one of the aforementioned sandwiches served on a craft beer bun.

And speaking of beer, Voodoo brought its full portfolio to bear when stocking the Grand Prairie taproom. Twenty-four taps pour beer shipped from the company's production facility in Pennsylvania. Among the options are German styles (Berliner weisse, kölsch), Belgian classics (tripel, witbier), pale ales, IPAs, a "robust" brown ale, stouts, standard lagers and more.

More, incidentally, covers two barrel-aged beers on tap, an imperial stout called Where Our Secrets Go and a tripel named Voodoo Love Child. Both are sold in 22-ounce bombers as well, anchoring an extensive to-go selection featuring ten or more Voodoo varieties in cans.

Beyond all that, hard seltzers, hand-crafted cocktails and wine round out the boozy beverage offerings, with sodas, juices and root beer on hand as non-alcoholic alternatives. You can even buy a complimentary round of drinks for the kitchen, if you're so inclined.

Voodoo Grand Prairie is open seven days a week, with operating hours beginning at 11 a.m.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A look at 2022 North Texas production numbers

Click image to enlarge.

Presented is an updated chart showing a breakdown of brewery sizes in North Texas based on production data reported to the Brewers Association and published in the May/June 2023 issue of The New Brewer.

Note that not all brewing companies provide their numbers, while others report numbers combining multiple locations. As a result, the number of brewing companies represented in the data is not equal to the total number of breweries open and operating at any given time.

Inside the numbers:

The large-size brewery tier in North Texas, based on production (shown alphabetically):
  • Community Beer Co. of Dallas.
  • Deep Ellum Brewing Co. of Dallas.
  • Martin House Brewing Co. of Fort Worth.
  • Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth.
  • Revolver Brewing of Granbury.
  • Tupps Brewery of McKinney.
Tier movement
  • Two breweries advanced from the "very small" to the "small" production tier in 2022 - False Idol Brewing of North Richland Hills and Siren Rock Brewing Co. of Rockwall. One brewery dropped from the large to mid-size production tier - Four Corners Brewing Co. of Dallas.
Year-to-year production change - overall (based on those reporting numbers in 2021 and 2022).
  • Overall production in North Texas was down roughly 7% in 2022.
  • Comparison: Overall industry production growth was flat nationally, according to the Brewers Association.
Year-to-year production change - by tier (based on those reporting numbers in 2021 and 2022).
  • Large (> 10,000 bbl): -13%.
  • Mid-size (5000-10,000 bbl): 0%
  • Small (1000-5000 bbl): -6%.
  • Very Small (< 1000 bbl): +21%.
  • Comparison: While individual percentages for local tiers are inflated, the general trend of larger breweries making less beer, and smaller breweries making more beer, falls in line with results shared during the Brewers Association's "2023 State of the Industry" presentation.
Largest year-to-year production gain (based on those reporting numbers in 2021 and 2022).
  • Manhattan Project Beer Co. of Dallas had the largest reported gain in raw barrels produced locally for 2022.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Boozie's closing restaurants, consolidating ops in southern Tarrant County

Image credit: Boozie's Brewery.

Despite just recently opening locations on opposite ends of the Metroplex, Boozie's Brewery will close brewpubs in Fairview and Fort Worth, with plans to consolidate operations at a new location in southern Tarrant County.

Boozie's established a presence earlier this year after taking over two brewpubs formerly owned by Wild Acre Brewing Co. of Fort Worth. Following a sale of Wild Acre's assets to Bishop Cider of Dallas in May 2021, the brewpubs transitioned to a separate ownership group led by developer Bruce Conti. At the time, the team behind Boozie's also included Chef David Hollister and award-winning brewer Bobby Mullins.

The company's future home will be at 685 John B. Sias Memorial Parkway in Edgecliff Village. Already under construction, this spot was originally intended to be a production-only location feeding the Fort Worth brewpub, but now it will house a brewery, taproom, and outdoor music venue. Mullins, by the way, will continue to oversee production going forward.

As for closing dates, Boozie's Brewery & TX Fare will offer its final service in Fairview on Friday, May 19, with Boozie's Brewery & Gourmet Sandwiches to shutter in Fort Worth on Sunday, May 21.

Update (6/14/2023):
According to a story in Fort Worth Magazine, Boozie's Brewery in Edgecliff Village will not move forward due to ownership holding interests in violation of the state's implementation of the three-tier system.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Railport taps community input for new TxIPA

Image credit: Railport Brewing Co.

Railport Brewing Co. of Waxahachie recently took a crowdsourcing approach in creating a new house beer especially for Union 28, a bar & grill/live music venue in Midlothian.

For this project, Railport held a series of tasting events at Union 28. Patrons were asked to try a number of different beers, picking their favorites from among the sample groups. This helped the brewery zero in the general preferences of Union 28 customers, according to Railport's head brewer, Jacoby Womack.

"It was about establishing a consistency as far as what the patrons are drinking [at Union 28]," says Womack, " which is a drinkable light beer with flavor, but also with a mouthfeel similar to what they drink regularly."

The problem with most light beers, of course, is how the bland and generic nature leaves you wanting more. So, with that in mind, Railport worked to develop a craft ale that drinks like a macro light lager.

Introduced as the brewery's TxIPA, the beer features a mix of Citra and Galena hops. Think session IPA, but even lighter, with a hop-forward presentation and less malt character than an American-style pale ale. 

"It's light, it's clear, and it has the perfect amount of bitterness for people to drink it and say it has flavor, but drinks like a Miller Lite or Bud Light!" says Womack.

And, as the graphic says, you're invited to "Come and Drink It!", whether that be at Union 28 or the Railport taproom, where TxIPA is on tap and available now.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Fate to be tempted by new Beer Geeks brewery

Beer Geeks Brewery will take up the entire ground floor of the Fate Place building (Mitchell Garman Architects).

For the citizens of the City of Fate, it seems a brewery is meant to be, thanks to a couple of beer geeks who recently set up shop in their town.

Jason and Deidra Roe's first foray in the craft beer industry came with the opening of Beer Geeks, a craft beer bottle shop, five years ago in Rockwall. It turns out that was the initial phase of a long-range plan for the husband-and-wife team, the seeds of which were sown more than a decade ago.

Things began when Jason took up homebrewing around 2012, subsequently winning a number of awards for his recipes. From there, the couple found inspiration during beercation trips to breweries around Texas. The sense of community and tight-knit nature of the beer industry drew them in, making them want to be a part of it themselves.

As for phase two of the plan, it took place when the bottle shop was relocated to Fate earlier this year. The move allowed draft service to be offered in addition to package sales. Still, there was one other aspect to be added to the Beer Geeks equation.

So, what's phase three? Well, that would be the brewery, taproom and food hall currently under construction behind the shop's current spot in Downtown Fate. Beer Geeks Brewery will occupy 7,600 square feet and inhabit the entire ground floor of Fate Place, a three-story structure being built from the ground up.

Once up and running, package sales will remain in the mix at Beer Geeks Brewery, carrying on the freedom of choice principles central to the concept. Beers at the shop are sold as singles, allowing customers to pick-and-choose what they like. Providing such access to a variety of options will extend to the brewery and its incubator-type food component.

"We're going to have a six-station food hall," says Deidra. "Our hope to have at least four permanent residents, and then two rotating pop-ups. We want to target food truck owners who dream of opening a brick-and-mortar location someday, with specialty offerings unique to the area. In other words, no chains."

On the subject of brewing operations, Jason intends to employ a 3.5-barrel brewhouse for primary production (double batches to be fermented in seven-barrel tanks), with a 10-gallon pilot system on hand for test batches and experimentation.

"The whole idea is to brew small batches in limited quantities," explains Jason. "I can be a lot more creative that way, with freedom to try different, crazy things you wouldn't do with a 30-barrel batch. Plus, people want different beers all the time, and small batches turn over really fast, so there will be a sense of urgency for customers who want to try something new."

Beer will pour from 30 handles in the taproom, with a selection of house beers, guest brews and other beverages expected to fill out the everyday portfolio.

"Our opening goal would be to have five-to-six house beers on," says Jason. "We'll also have a couple of wines on tap and a root beer on one handle. The rest will be guest handles, but the needle will move back and forth based on the ebb and flow of sales, the seasons, and how much time I'm able to commit to production."

As for other elements of the experience, the notion of Beer Geeks being a place "where it's ok to geek out about beer" will continue to interweave into everything going on at the brewery. The science lab feel you get in the shop, with chemistry lab tables and test tubes posing as plant holders, is just the beginning.

"We really want to expand the brand and idea of Beer Geeks, and the science and chemistry behind it," says Deidra. "We have some creative ideas for a user experience, if you will, where consumers will have a chance to kind of mix flavors together like a science experiment."

Of course, the ultimate goal is to establish Beer Geeks as a local destination for food, drinks and entertainment. Helping with that vision, there are plans for neighboring attractions like an outdoor park on one side of the building, where concerts and other events will take place. It'll create a town gathering place and draw customers into the brewery. Even better, patrons will be able to enjoy their drinks anywhere throughout the development.

"It'll be family-friendly environment," says Jason. "Families can come in, split up to choose what they want to eat in the food hall, then meet back at the taproom where we'll have some non-alcoholic drinks as well. Everyone can just hang out, and it should be a good time."

Beer Geeks Brewery is expected to open sometime in the spring of 2024.

Friday, May 12, 2023

New notes from Nashville, the 2023 CBC and World Beer Cup

The 2023 edition of the Craft Brewers Conference took place at the Music City Center in Downtown Nashville (Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Five years ago, when the Brewers Association (BA) first tapped Nashville as the host city for the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), the industry was in a different place than it is today. It was pre-Covid, and craft beer's growth rate had settled into the low single digits after a decade which saw double-digit growth rates occur in six out of ten years.

This "maturing growth rate," as described by Bart Watson, chief economist for the BA, was more normal and realistic as a long-term growth rate. Then, of course, the plague descended upon us, forcing the industry to reassess operations and pivot as needed to keep the doors open.

As the brewing industry gathered once again in Nashville for the 2023 CBC earlier this week, they were met with new, flat growth rates and presented with what Watson referred to as a "new normal" in terms of what to expect going forward, now that the market is more or less past the point of Covid recovery.

Details on what that means is provided in coverage of Watson's annual State of the "Craft Brewing Industry" address below. Also offered up are summaries of select research studies and seminar topics from the conference, along with the regular recap of local taproom visits and the 2023 World Beer Cup results.


State of the Industry

So, what exactly is this "new normal" for the craft beer industry?

As illustrated below, craft beer enjoyed double-digit growth rates from 2013-2015. This was followed by the more "mature" growth rates prior to the pandemic, after which the industry experience a recovery in 2021 leading to a growth rate of 8%. In 2022, however, things flattened out as craft beer production was on par with 2021.

Image: Brewers Association.

Taking a wider view, the average annual growth is a modest 1.5% over the past six years. And, according to Watson, similar numbers will be norm for the near future. The "new normal," that is, unless craft brewers do something to change it.

Watson was quick to add, though, that stagnant growth is not indicative of an industry undergoing zero change. There are bright spots. For instance, while regional brewers saw a 2% decline in growth, and micros (15K barrels or less) were up only 1%, hospitality-focused breweries (taprooms and brewpubs) were up 7%.

In other words, craft demand is still there, it's just being met in a different environment. Oh, but if there's a caveat, it's that hospitality concepts typically have a shelf life. This is evidenced in a 20% growth rate for brewpubs opening in 2018 or later, with only a 2% bump seen by those debuting prior to 2018.

Getting back to flat growth and the idea of a "new norm," naturally this extends to the brewery count as well - with openings and closings expected to be more in balance. In 2023, there were 529 openings (lowest since 2013) and 319 closings reported, resulting in a slight increase in the number of operating breweries to just under 9500.

Image: Brewers Association.

As for how to move forward, Watson says new placements (or occasions), new customers and new strategies are needed if the industry has hopes of returning to the elevated growth rates of the past.

In terms of barriers, competition in the alcohol segment is clearly impacting the industry, with beer losing ground to hard liquor and other beverage options. This applies to placements, as well as the ability to attract new customers.

For example, liquor has targeted what were formerly beer strongholds at sporting events, concerts and the like. This is an area, Watson says, where beer has to find a way to flip the script back.

Beyond that, new placements may be found with non-alcoholic beers. Are there untapped accounts where you can put a non-alcoholic beer in the hands of a consumer spending time where beer might not have been offered before?

Shifting to customer outlooks, growth is found in new demographics, specifically in the rapidly growing population of women and BIPOC drinkers. Problem is, craft beer has the lowest percentage of these drinkers across all beverage alcohol categories. This shines a spotlight on the need to connect with this diverse generation, so what is your brewery actively doing to welcome them to the craft beer party?

Lastly, focus...focus...focus. Chasing trends isn't a path to growth. When a trend hits, the market gets sliced up between breweries trying to deliver on the latest and greatest style. There's simply not enough growth to go around for everyone to win at this particular game.

Instead, Watson says to seek growth by leaning into what your brewery does best and touting that as a differentiator. Drive growth yourself, rather than chasing it.

Researcher Presentations

Despite the brewing industry perhaps being more hop-focused than ever, two research studies focused on malt were among the most interesting at this year's CBC. A short synopsis of each is presented below, but you can contact researchers directly for more information.

Infusion Malts - presented by Cristal Jane Peck, product innovation manager at Boortmalt.

  • Question: As an alternative to adding adjuncts, why not bombard barley with exogenous flavor and aroma compounds to created complex and niche malt varieties?
  • Results: A more rounded, layered effect was found in test cases, with new elements of taste and more complex expressions of flavor observed.

Malt Terroir - presented by Hannah Turner, director of the Barley, Malt & Brewing Quality Lab at Montana State University.
  • Questions: What are the environmental and varietal mineral contributions to malt flavor? How does malthouse water and/or equipment contribute to house flavor? What are the effects of adding minerals to replicate famous brewing waters (Dortmund, Burton on Trent) - since such beers were likely brewed with malt made with those same waters.
  • Results: The mineral profile of water impacts malt quality. A reduction in extract and an increase in enzymatics were observed, along with changes in color in pH.

    Water treatment effects on mineral content vary. Higher levels of magnesium and potassium in water result in lower levels in the malt produced. Chloride and sulfate levels in malt derive more from the actual grain, and do not appear to be impacted by water treatments.

World Beer Cup

Formerly held every two years, the World Beer Cup (WBC) is now an annual competition put on by the Brewers Association. For the 2023 event, a total of 10,213 submissions were received from 2,376 breweries representing 51 countries worldwide. Judges evaluating those entries awarded prizes in 103 categories covering 176 different beer styles.

Image credits: Peticolas Brewing Co., White Rock Alehouse & Brewery.

Winners from North Texas included Peticolas Brewing Co. and White Rock Alehouse & Brewery, both of Dallas. Each brought home WBC honors for the first time in their histories.

  • White Rock Alehouse & Brewery, Dallas: Silver for Big Thicket - Golden or Blonde Ale category.
  • Peticolas Brewing Co., Dallas - Bronze for Turtle Kriek - Belgian Fruit Beer category.

For more on the 2023 WBC, and the historical performance of breweries from North Texas, click the links below:

Taproom Trips

Having already visited popular locales like Bearded Iris Brewing, Smith & Lentz Brewing Co., and Yazoo Brewing Co. during my last tour of Nashville, the idea for this trip was to seek out new destinations while visiting breweries in the Music City.

Among the favorites was Tailgate Brewery, an entity with seven locations across Tennessee. I stopped by the company's headquarters in West Nashville, where patrons can enjoy a bit of ambiance while enjoying Tailgate's offerings. The seven-acre site has an inviting back patio space providing views of the Tennessee countryside.

From there, I hit up Fait La Force Brewing Co. based on the promise of Belgian-inspired beers. The taplist featured a mix of European styles, not to mention a couple of IPAs, but did I enjoy a pour of Where the Ghouls Dwell, a Belgian dark strong ale.

(Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

And lagers? There were plenty, with no fewer than five pilsners on tap at Southern Grist Brewing Co.'s taproom in East Nashville (a second location resides on the west side of town). Southern Crisp, unfiltered and dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops, was the pilsner of choice on this occasion. And, while we're on the subject of East Nashville, a particularly tasty Mosaic Pils was on tap just down the road at East Nashville Beer Works.

As for other visits, I managed to snag a taste of Mille, an imperial milk stout rested on Ethiopian coffee while at Living Waters Brewing. This, while a special event was going on offering patrons bottle pours of Pliny and Blind Pig IPA from Russian River Brewing Co. of California.

Then last, but not least, I joined the masses at Barrique Brewing & Blending for Camp Rauch, an event celebrating smoked beers brought in from around the country. Wall-to-wall barrels surround patrons at this spot, where an array of bottled sour beers lay resting in wine racks framing the seating area. Barrique has a barrel-aged lager program as well, and from that I drew a four-pack of Polotmavé 12, a Czech dark lager, to be enjoyed when I arrived back home.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Hop & Sting secures shelf space at Albertsons, Tom Thumb

Image credit: Hop & Sting Brewing Co.

Hop & Sting Brewing Co. of Grapevine has announced a new deal which provides the company with valuable retail space for its products at North Texas locations of Albertsons and Tom Thumb.

According to Hop & Sting co-founder Brian Burton, the plan is to start out with placements in seven stores, then add more over time. The first to receive a shipment was the Tom Thumb store on 302 S. Park Blvd. in Grapevine, and another at 4000 William D. Tate Ave. is slated take delivery on Monday.

First placements of Hop & Sting products on shelves at Tom Thumb in Grapevine (Brian Burton).

From there, stores in Colleyville, Coppell, Plano, Dallas and Fort Worth are also in the queue, with orders currently pending from those locales.

As far as what beers will be available, Burton says stores will be able to pick and choose from a mix of year-round and select seasonal brews. From the regular lineup, options include Aluminum Cowboy Light Lager, Masterminds IPA, Miracle Wheat, Northeast Texas IPA and Weisser Time Hefeweizen, while seasonal selections will consist of Local 3113 Oktoberfest Lager, and Christmas Cookie Ale, when those recipes are available.