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.