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.