Monday, June 10, 2024

Rollertown partners with Ben E. Keith for North Texas distribution

Image courtesy of Rollertown Beerworks.

Rollertown Beerworks of Celina has entered into a distribution agreement with Ben E. Keith Beverages, with the Fort Worth-based company set to deliver Rollertown products to both on and off-premise accounts across 37 North Texas counties beginning July 1, 2024.

"This partnership will significantly increase our availability across North Texas while infinitely improving our level of service," says Jonathan Rogers, CEO of Rollertown. "Not only is Ben E. Keith consistently recognized as being best-in-class, they have a strong track record of building brands. We are thrilled to partner with them to get our fresh, local beer out to more North Texans."

Working with Ben E. Keith will enable Rollertown to tap into a vast distribution network, significantly enhancing their ability to address the growing demand for their beers across the entire North Texas region. The 37 county territory includes all of D-FW and stretches from Bowie County at the Arkansas border to the east along the Red River to Wilbarger County on the Oklahoma border to the west and down to Johnson and Ellis counties in the south.

"We are excited to partner with Rollertown Beerworks to expand their brands in the greater North Texas area," says Steve Olkewicz, business development manager at Ben E. Keith. "As a distributor, we recognize the outstanding job Rollertown has done in creating and developing exceptional beers. We look forward to supporting their continued growth and success for many years to come."

Rollertown recently celebrated the groundbreaking of its new headquarters in Downtown Frisco. The venue will serve as a family-friendly entertainment destination, while doubling as the company's production facility. Located on Main St. near Toyota Stadium, the site is scheduled to open in the summer of 2025.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Black Hawk Brewery lands in Prosper

The brewery's name is a military reference, stemming from ownership's support of our armed forces (all images © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Black Hawk Brewery is now open in the Town of Prosper, thereby establishing itself as the first business of its kind in the city. Built from the ground up, Black Hawk sits at 390 W. Broadway St. on the western edge of Proper's downtown district, operating inside a 12,000 square foot structure housing a full restaurant and brewery, along with a rooftop deck.

According to a spotlight piece on the Prosper Economic Development website, owner Dan Hawkins moved to Prosper from California in late 2020. With the goal of providing the town a "more distinct, family-friendly, and independent restaurant," Hawkins decided to pursue plans to develop Black Hawk for the community.

As for Black Hawk's offerings, the kitchen serves a variety of shareables, handhelds (thumbs-up on the Shrimp Tacos), hand-tossed pizzas and salads. There are also a few higher-end entrees (bone-in pork chop, salmon, steak frites), along with a kids menu whose selections include fries and a drink for the little ones.

Shrimp Tacos (pineapple salsa, cilantro, spicy aioli) paired with Silo Lights Amber Ale,
which calls attention to Prosper's historic silos visible from Black Hawk's rooftop deck.

From the brewhouse, house beers are the work of Christopher Tidwell, a longtime industry veteran with previous stints at Union Bear Brewing Co. of Plano, Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery of Garland and others. His initial lineup consists of six classic styles (blonde ale, West Coast IPA, German hefeweizen, hazy IPA, amber ale, oatmeal stout), but patrons can expect to see other recipes pop-up as Tidwell works to fill upwards of 18 taps on an everyday basis.

By the way, the beer names at Black Hawk feature an array of meaningful monikers. Hawkins West Coast IPA, Light Hawk Golden Ale and Prosper Nights Oatmeal Stout have perhaps obvious references, but then there's Doggett Wheat Ale, a beer brewed in remembrance of the late Michael Doggett, a co-founder of Obsidian Brewery in Leander.

Black Hawk's brewhouse and main dining area are downstairs, while upstairs is a rooftop deck.

Beyond the beer, Black Hawk has a full bar, so wine, spirits and cocktails are among the other beverage options. There are also mocktails, sodas, juices and the like for those seeking a non-alcoholic option.

Amenity-wise, the aforementioned rooftop deck is sure to be a popular destination for brews with a view of the city's historic silos, especially given that Black Hawk is one of the taller buildings in Prosper. Of course, there are ample televisions as well (over 20 total), both upstairs and down, for those desiring other visual distractions.

Should you be planning a visit, a grand opening event to officially introduce the brand and brewery is planned on Saturday, June 8. After that, Black Hawk will serve customers seven days a week with hours beginning daily at 11 a.m.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Lakewood, Andy's Frozen Custard to build world's largest beer float

Image courtesy of Lakewood Brewing Co.

Later this month, Lakewood Brewing Co. of Garland will team with Andy's Frozen Custard, a popular purveyor of frozen treats, in an attempt to build the world's largest beer float. Happening on Saturday, June 29 at 1 p.m., Lakwood will create the float using a full keg of its Temptress Imperial Milk Stout melded with 50 scoops of Andy's World Famous Frozen Custard.

According to a press release, this effort seeks to break a previous record set in February in Ohio using about 20 pints (9 liters) of Third Eye Brewing’s Higher Purpose Milk Stout and 36 scoops of Graeter's Vanilla Ice Cream.

Andy’s will be on-site at Lakewood with its treat truck from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a fresh full menu of rich, thick and decadent treats, featuring smooth and creamy vanilla and chocolate frozen custard, transformed into luscious Concretes, Jackhammers™, shakes, and sundaes. Undecided treat seekers can get creative and customize their own treats with vanilla frozen custard and topping favorites like fresh fruit, hot fudge, and Andy’s famous roasted pecans.

Those in attendance can also register to win Andy’s for a year, as well as a Lakewood Lion’s Den Annual Membership, which offers one complimentary beer per visit with no annual limit. Both Andy’s and Lakewood will have merchandise available to commemorate the occasion, including a free Andy’s and Lakewood glass for the first 100 guests.

“Andy’s and Lakewood are brands known for a superlative focus on product quality, using only the finest ingredients and selling what we have carefully made in-house,” adds Wim Bens, founder and president of Lakewood. “Marrying the two to create one of the most iconic symbols of summer will be one for the record books.”

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Pouring over non-alcoholic beer - navigating taste, style and authenticity: a guest post by Collin Zreet

Non-alcoholic efforts to this point have covered a range of different beer styles (Collin Zreet).

While recently taking a break from drinking alcohol, I have embraced the opportunity to explore the fast-growing realm of non-alcoholic (NA) beers.  This is an especially great time to do so, since there has been a surge of these beers being produced in the craft and macro beer markets.

After trying several different brands, styles, and production methods, it has me thinking: what makes a good (or great) NA beer?  Does it have to be “to style?”  Does it have to taste exactly like a version that contains alcohol?  Does it even have to taste good?  All of these questions have been rattling around inside my brain as I reach for more NA beers from known, unknown, local, national, and international breweries.

First and foremost, any beer has to taste good to you and your own preferences.  Too many times I hear: “It’s good for an NA beer.”  “It’s better than I thought it would be.”  So … is it a good beer then?  Or just not that bad?  Whether you are not drinking alcohol for health or personal reasons, drink what tastes right to you.  Just because someone else doesn’t like it, or someone is shunning the entire NA category, it shouldn’t shy you away from an NA beer that you might end up liking.

On a similar note, I’ve had several people tell me that Guinness 0.0 and Heineken 0.0 are the best NA beers simply because they taste exactly like the regular versions.  While I do agree that those respective NA versions taste incredibly similar to their alcohol-laden counterparts, what if you don’t prefer those beers to begin with?  Does that still make it a good NA beer?  If those are your kinds of beers, then great!  That is the best scenario:  a beer that you enjoy whether it has alcohol or not.  If not, don’t feel obligated to claim those as the best NA beers for you.  Personally, if it tastes good, I am all for it, and extra bonus points if it tastes like the version that has alcohol in it.

But does an NA beer have to be “to style?”  I can see this going a few different ways, but first let’s see how the professional guidelines define NA beer.  While the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) does not list an NA category (as they cater more to homebrewers), The Great American Beer Festival, being a competition for only commercial beer, does.

From the 2023 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines:

  • Non-alcohol (N/A) malt beverages can emulate the character of any beer style defined within these guidelines but with no or nearly no alcohol (less than 0.5% ABV). Ethyl acetate should not be present. Due to their nature, non-alcohol malt beverages will have a profile lacking the complexity and balance of flavors that beers containing alcohol will display. N/A beers should be assessed with this in mind, and should not be given negative evaluations for reasons related to the absence of alcohol.

Essentially, NA beers need to follow the guidelines for the declared base style, but the guidelines do allow for some flexibility in judging for lack of complexity and balance from the alcohol not being present.  This being said, should we hold NA beers to the same strict guideline standards as alcohol-containing beers?  Or should we allow some flexibility and lenience even outside of what the guidelines already state? 

I have yet to find an NA IPA (hazy, West Coast, or otherwise) to completely solve the issue of lack of balance and astringency that occurs when there is no alcohol present.  Some have come close, but none close enough to convince me that it is 100% possible.  The perceived sweetness of the malt and alcohol is needed to offset the bitterness of the hops.  While NA IPAs will never reach the IBUs of a standard West Coast IPA, I believe the term “IPA” here is still valid to use because it implies that the beer contained inside is going to be pale and very hop forward.  The term “IPA” has been used for less than this before in many applications, so I am totally comfortable with it.  I notice a similar imbalance with darker styles (porters, stouts), except in this case the bitterness comes more from the dark roasted grains than hops.  Lighter styles seem to be the best example so far, since they traditionally lack bitterness and don’t have to worry about balancing it out with malt sweetness.

On the reverse, I do see some breweries taking liberties with very unique and nuanced styles, trying to claim those styles attract more savvy and knowledgeable beer drinkers who are above drinking more commonly labeled styles.  A brewery may be trying to label an NA beer as a Kölsch, when some of the key characteristics of the style are missing (light bready sweet malt character, continental European hop character with moderate bitterness), when they could have easily called it a blonde or golden ale.  That being said, there are also plenty of examples of this same misappropriation within standard alcohol-containing beers as well.

So, what should one be looking for if a beer is trying to be more to style?  Here are a few things that might be different with a style being tweaked to make it NA:

  • Appearance:  There should be really no change here.  Using fewer base malts, which provide most of the sugars for converting to alcohol, may lighten color, but can be easily adjusted with specialty malts that would not add any significant sugars.  Head retention may be affected by the use of less malt (and therefore head-forming proteins), but once again, specialty malts can be added in to compensate.
  • Aroma:  Changes in malt may slightly affect the aroma, but the biggest difference here would be in yeast-driven aromas, especially fruity esters and spicy phenols that are primary.
  • Flavor:  The most significant change I have noticed here is in the balance between sweetness and bitterness of the beer.  Having less malt and alcohol in these beers, the overall perceived sweetness is substantially lower, leaving a stronger perceived bitterness as well.  This can leave an overwhelming sense of dryness and astringency in the beer, especially in more hop-forward styles, like IPAs.  Bitterness from other sources, like dark roasted grains, can also lead to this imbalance.
  • Mouthfeel:  Because malt adds body to beer, when less malt is used in general, the body tends to be a bit thinner. Also, when there is less body, more hop-forward styles can come across as astringent, meaning that they imbue a drying puckering sensation in the mouth, like sucking on a tea bag.

Taking all of these into consideration, the styles that would be best represented as an NA beer would likely be those definitely lower in overall intensity and especially lower in bitterness.  Pale lagers definitely fit this, as well as similar other styles like Kölsch and blonde ales. 

In the end, it comes down to you and your own preferences.  If you need to have NA beer for personal or health reasons, there are more options out there than ever before.  Not just the macro brewers, but now the smaller and local brewers too.  If NA beer just isn’t the same to you as their standard counterparts, that’s fine too.  Find what fits you best.

Collin Zreet is a former brewery owner (Funky Picnic Brewery & Café) and one of only eight Advanced Cicerones in the State of Texas.  Throughout his experiences in the craft beer industry, he has specialized in sensory and beer quality, judging several professional beer competitions, including the Great American Beer Festival and being an instrumental part of setting the styles and guidelines for the Texas Craft Brewers Guild’s annual state-wide Brewers Cup.  He also specializes in beer and food pairing, creating and leading over 25 beer dinners across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.