The State of NTX Beer Week 2017

In the past five years, the North Texas beer scene has grown by leaps and bounds. It excites me to see Beer in Big D‘s yearly report, as well as his periodic updates through out the year, on the growth of the (once) little beer scene that could.

North Texas seemed to have started it’s rise at a slow burn and continues that slow burn with consistency and sudden jumps, too. Aside from looking at numbers of opening breweries, I think the biggest thing I’ve seen grow in the past two years alone is the fans. From my own personal friend group to people at events, it’s obvious that we’re past the early adopter phase of craft beer in North Texas and entering the most exciting part, the mid-to-late adopter phase.

This mid-to-late adopter phase of craft beer in North Texas brings the biggest amount of fans, largest amounts of businesses opening and can be considered the biggest boom we will see. I don’t expect this phase to die out anytime soon and for good beer to only continue to grow and settle in as a natural part of life like macro beer did post-World War II.

Not without it’s own unique challenges, we will see more breweries open as well as see some close. We will begin to see the larger differences between mom and pop breweries, breweries with budgets, breweries with real financiers (often with an end goal to focus on the product only enough to make sales), concept breweries, and breweries focusing on singular ideas, be it a particular style or international brewing region.

With the many different buckets a brewery can fall under, we will also see multiple breweries with similar concepts. An current example of this can be found in the Mile High City, Denver, Colorado. A quickly growing beer hub which once featured only one heavy metal-themed brewery and one traditional German-themed brewery in town, (along with the many other “normal” breweries) but now supports multiple breweries with similar concepts, brewed their way. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s a sign of evolving progress.

And we have to continue to progress and evolve if we want to survive. Breweries are only alike in generalizations (they brew beer, or specific beer styles, etc.) but the beer itself is different from brewery to brewery and that’s the part of the journey that beer fans, new and old, are really focusing on.

New, one-off speciality, or rare beer is more exciting to many new fans over what beer they can consume regularly. I might be always buying Real Ale’s Hans Pils for my fridge, but many new fans will find a mainstay and purchase it after they’ve bought up all the new rare/special release beer that has been released that week. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s certainly changing the game for year-round brews and the number of new beers a brewery releases.

With all of these changes coming to the North Texas beer scene, this years NTX Beer Week also brought about a lot of difference which I believe we’ve seen inklings of throughout it’s five years.

In the first couple of years, it seemed the events were primarily standard pint night after standard pint night after standard pint night. The most common comments I heard from many fans was complaining from their significant others of their overflowing cupboards or from spacing issues being able to store the amount of free glasses they received. The events were great, but beer fans have wanted more than a single beer or two with a glass to take home. This year, I feel while pint nights were still the main type of event, the pint nights themselves were better focused on the drinker who already had been around for a little while, offering more variety and extra added excitement beyond showing up to try a beer. This shows that breweries and beer establishments are hearing the fans and catering to them, indicating a beer scene that is beginning to learn it’s crowd.

For NTX Beer Week, you already saw this expanded idea with big events, like Festicle and (my absolute favorite) Brewers Ball; fans look for those rare releases and ability to get down on some delicious food to go with their special release or favorite beers. Beer is fun and people like to have fun with beer and it’s obvious NTX Beer Week organizers are aiming the ship in that direction. This fun is a different sort of fun than perhaps the seemingly uppity events which wine fans tend to enjoy, but we should be fine with that, there is more than one way to have fun with beer!

The big macro brewery conglomerate wants to say that the biggest thing coming against beer is wine and spirits. And perhaps that might be true of them, the giants trying to topple the giants, but when it comes to North Texas’ beer scene, I think we can happily say growth is still in vogue and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

As I enjoy my NTX Beer Week recovery beer this morning, I look ahead to the future of NTX Beer Week and the NTX beer scene with optimism and excitement. We have the opportunity, we have the ability and we can continue to build something great. Let’s support our area beer week, the breweries looking to brew something great and the establishments helping you to get your hands on the best beer out there. No matter whether a brewery has a brick and mortar building here in the area, or they distribute their delicious liquid to us, it wouldn’t be the NTX beer scene without everyone involved.

Slainté!

Cheers to 5 Years of Celebrating NTX Beer!

Five years! Wow!

It’s pretty incredible to consider that NTX Beer Week has been doing this for five years. I look forward to the beer week each year and this year is pretty broad in the different places celebrating beer in North Texas.

I hope you’ve got your drinking shoes shined up and those debit cards ready to go, here are my picks for NTXBeerWeek 2017!

Friday

Community Beer Co & Peticolas Brewing Co-Tour

Halloween Tribute Night

4 Years of Pumpkinator

Saturday

Revolver Brewing 5th Anniversary Party

Green Flash Cellar 3 Ideal Belgique Tapping

Sunday

Brew Drew: Homebrew Competition

Halloween Sunday Pupday (Collective, HopFusion and Pouring Glory)

Founders KBS Brunch

Monday

Collective’s POGS

Tuesday

Bell’s Halloween Brewsday Tuesday

Halloween Izakaya Pop-Up @ The Collective Brewing Project

Wednesday

3rd Annual Zombie Beer Dinner

Real Ale VIP Tour of Blanco Raffle

Lakewood/Rahr DFW Collaboration

Thursday

Women of Craft Beer Symposium

Revolver Gridiron Launch w/ Brewmaster Grant Wood

Friday

Brewers Ball

Queen of the Mist Flight Night!

Saturday

Festicle 2017: Barrel Aged Beers and Street Tacos

Collective’s Third Anniversary

Rahr & Sons 13th Anniversary

Real Ale Mysterium Verum Morning Wood Brunch with Owner Brad Farbstein

Sunday

Dollar Taco Club: Cinco de Novembre!

Check out the entire listing for details!

Podcast #7 – Barrel Blending w/ The Collective Brewing Project

Seeking to learn more about what seems like “barrel voodoo,” Ryan Deyo sits down to chat about barrel blending and the process he and his team at The Collective Brewing Project use to produce the farmhouse, funky and sour beers that the brewery has become known for.

Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to chat, for mentioning James Herrington, and for sharing their newly released Wood Folk, Batch 2.

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Sightglass #6

One of the privileges of being a writer and providing coverage for the craft beer revolution, that is unfolding here in America, is being able to see events that are going to lead to amazing things. Some of those are the first tapping of a beer that will become a staple, the brewery receiving a “grown-up” brewing system that will allow the brewery to expand, or it’s first anniversary. For me, any of those events are thrilling and bring a lot of joy to anyone involved, even if the results of that event may not be seen for years.

Imagine the first time the German brewers of yesteryear put their beers in caves or the first time someone in Bourdeux, France first harvested grapes. It’s not the fact it was done first, it was the fact they took the leap and said, “let’s see what happens.”

As The Collective Brewing Project rounds the corner and is heading towards their third anniversary, it’s been a big year already. Their first (of several) turbid-mash-into-a-coolship brewing experience, their first “milkshake” IPA, which they added Brettanomyces to and I’d argue it’s pretty damn good and just completely different from others I’ve had, and the launch of their bottle club.

And there is more in store; check out my podcast interview with head brewer/co-owner Ryan Deyo, coming later this week.

Oh, and they launched a small bites menu and a wine list. A wine list at a brewery? Yep. It’s new to us Texans and perhaps Collective is leading the way for us to catch up.

“Not because we’re trying to sway those non-beer drinkers and tell them that it’s okay to come drink here with their friends or spouses,” says Deyo. “All of these wines are spontaneous and wild fermented, which goes along with our focus. We may not be a winery, but a lot of what we do is like a winery. And, it doesn’t hurt that my wife loves wine.”

There is no book or future timeline written for breweries like Collective. And that’s a great thing.

 

A Beer Drinkers Guide Brewery Taprooms: Redux

A few years ago, I wrote an article with small pieces of advice for visitors of brewpubs and brewery taprooms. And in Texas, at the time that article was written, there were very few brewery taprooms located near me. In fact, there was only one in Fort Worth and a barely a handful around the Dallas-area. With that being the case, I focused the attention of my article on brewpubs and brewery tours problems/advice based on what we had at that time.

Three years and several local and national taproom visits later, I’ve learned a few things and would like to share some etiquette/advice that I have observed and learned from spending a lot of time in different brewery taprooms.

In Texas, we still have a ton of laws that are pretty archaic. One of which, is not being able to sell beer directly to consumers for off-premise consumption, unless your brewery has a brewpub license. As a result, this limits any brewery from being able to sell a six-pack or even a keg of beer, directly to you. In short, you have to go to a retailer and pay them, unless they have a brewpub license with the state. We’ve cleaned up a few things in the past couple of years, like allowing breweries to sell a glass of beer to you, which paved the way for taprooms to be legal, but Texas still has far to go in the entire taproom experience.

Brewery taprooms are functionally a bar within a brewery, similar in idea to a brewpub. Some Texas breweries are registered as brewpubs, which gives them more freedom for their customers (like selling growler fills or cans/bottles for off-premise consumption), though this licensing does limit beer production numbers in a calendar year. The Collective Brewing Project, Jester King Brewery and Noble Rey Brewing are just a few that hold Texas brewpub licenses.

What’s different – Tour and Tasting vs. Brewery Taproom

Tour and tasting events are typically $10-15 and include 3 or 4 beers, a tour of the brewhouse and last three to four hours. Visiting a taproom isn’t much different than ordering a beer at your local bar and enjoying one or two, with extended hours on multiple days. No brewery taprooms have guest beers and few brewpub-licensed breweries have guest beer on tap, however some can and do. Many taprooms offer flights and typically have multiple size glasses to fit your desired pour size.

  • Limit Taster Flights
    This is more than just for your own safety and being able to drive home, but also has to do with your ability to actual try and enjoy the different styles the brewery offers. Assuming you consume eight different style beers, your palette is going to quite confused by what beer you are enjoying after a while. Did you really enjoy beer #3 and much as #7, and are you sure it really tasted that way? Unless you are cleansing your palate and staying sober, in all likelihood, you won’t be totally certain. But if you do purchase a flight or two, remember, Uber and Lyft are super cost-effective.
  • Tip Bartenders / Servers
    At Tour and Tasting events, bartenders are mostly volunteers. At brewery taprooms, bartenders are actually working at bartenders wages, which is $2.13 per hour in Texas, unless the brewery decides to pay their bartenders a higher wage. Regardless, these folks are working for you just as much as they are working for the brewery, so when it comes time to settle up, make sure you are taking care of them like you should be at a normal bar.
  • Try a Full Pint – Half Pints are Great, too!
    If visiting a new brewery and I’m out-of-town, I often order a flight and make my second round a full-pint of something I liked or might like based on the bartenders suggestion. If I’m visiting a local brewery, I try to go for a couple of half-pints and maybe a full-pint of something I am almost certain I’ll enjoy, leaving me the opportunity to try other beers next time. Flights are for discovering what you want a full pour of, not just to taste things. It’s not a race and Untappd will be okay if you only check in two or three beers. Remember, it is about having fun and enjoying the beer as well.
  • Tours are Fun
    Most breweries offer a brewhouse tour at some point, scheduled during the week or weekend, or on one particular day, but there are some breweries that don’t offer a tour. Don’t expect every taproom to have a scheduled tour, but check online before arriving so you have an idea upon arrival. It never hurts to ask, but if a tour isn’t regularly scheduled, don’t expect anyone to be able to give you one if the taproom is busy.
  • Come Back for the Events
    Perhaps it’s a given, but seriously, check out the events schedule and plan a Saturday afternoon or Thursday evening around an event or two at the brewery. Most brewery taprooms have full event schedules throughout the week and most keep their Facebook page and website regularly updated. Some brewery taprooms bring in food trucks similar to tour and tasting events, while others take it a step further and host beer dinners and private tasting events in their taproom.
  • Call ahead if you are bringing a big group
    Thinking about bringing a big group with you to the brewery? If you aren’t renting out the whole brewery and thinking about bringing more than 1 table worth of people to the taproom with you, give the bar staff a heads up. No matter whether it’s a busy or slow day, they’ll appreciate it and will be ready to serve your group. After all, taproom staff are their to serve the brewery’s beer in the best possible way, and that includes the service, too.

 

Easy Pouring and Clean Glasses

If you’ve visited a brewery taproom or beer-centric bar, you might have noticed bartenders turning your glass upside down over a small surface that sprayed water inside of the glass. Normally this glass rinser, or, star sink, is found right by the taps or glasses are stored. By the time you’ve finished your first beer of the day, you might have seen this action multiple times and wondered what is going on.

A star sink/rinser doesn’t take up a lot of space and is a great addition to beer-focused bars or breweries. You might incorrectly assume this quick rinse is for cleaning, when in fact, the bartender uses this process to ensure the beer arrives into the glass – and, in turn, to you – in the best possible way.

Here are the three ways this process helps your beer:

  1. Lubrication
    The water down splashing the side and bottom of the glass acts as a lubricant for the beer flowing from the tap and into the glass. This quick spray helps the carbonation (bubbles) flow evenly down the sides of the glass and settle quickly, leaving you with more concentrated beer than head (foam) in your glass.
  2. Head Retention and Aroma
    Along with helping your beer arrive into your glass, star sinks also help the head on the top of your beer stay concentrated as well. The head of your beer is where a lot of the aroma is and it can enhance the flavor of the beer if you take a quick sniff before taking a drink.
  3. Keeping Things Cool
    Since well-crafted beer focuses on flavor, frozen or chilled glasses are not typically used. As a result, most glasses sit on a shelf behind the bar at whatever the room temperature is. This means when a bartender grabs your glass, the glass can effect the beer temperature slightly. Even though the glass is likely only 20 or so degrees warmer than the beer being poured into it the quick splash of cool water will cool the inside of your glass and help keep that beer from warming up to fast, leaving you with the opportunity to enjoy that cool brew in the best possible way.

Don’t worry, beer is made up of +93% water so it’s not going to water down your beer, especially with a less than a second or so squirt of water. And while it’s true some bars actually rinse glasses before pouring, the actual use of a star sink isn’t focused on that. If you are handed a glass that doesn’t seem clean, send it back and ask the bartender for a properly cleaned glass that can then be splashed with water from the star sink.

Beer is meant to be enjoyed and shared, but sometimes there are little things we (and your neighborhood bar) can do, to enhance that experience and make it a memorable one.

They Don’t Make It Anymore

I remember the day I found out my favorite local beer wasn’t going to be made anymore.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t find the beer anywhere I went. Tap handles seemed to pop-up everywhere. There were frequent pint nights and it was on tap at the brewery nearly every week and, of course, at all of my favorite spots. The sixteen-ounce cans of the delicious brew even showed up at random liquor stores that I went into in random parts of the city, where it was normally a “craft beer wasteland.” Everything seemed to be exactly as you’d expect for a beer that I perceived to popular..

Except, as I know now, it wasn’t.

Seeing a beer or brewery everywhere doesn’t mean it’s selling well. In fact, it doesn’t even mean the beer is good, although I’ll argue with you that my former favorite brew was awesome, hashtag ar eye pea. (#RIP)

In the case of the beer that I love(d), it could be argued that it could have suffered from a variety of problems circle around the fact it wasn’t an IPA or rare enough. But that probably wasn’t it. It might a consideration that perhaps the container / tap handle design just didn’t stand out to people. Well, actually I bet it was that, either.

The reality in which I was coming to grips with is this, simply: that it wasn’t selling enough, which may or may not be a result of anything to do with the beer, branding, sales or any person related to the brewery it was produced at.

It just wasn’t selling enough. Even if it checked all of the boxes, it just wasn’t happening.

Having been around the business of beer for a while (outside looking in), it’s hard to come to resolve the fact that sometimes things like this happen because of business reasons. The beer business isn’t as simple as it was a few years ago when there was only 2000 breweries in the country.

This is not just the fact there is more breweries out there. Making good beer simply isn’t good enough anymore; rarity has become the zeitgeist of today’s beer fans and it’s spreading across the American beer scene. It’s not the factor that many beers aren’t selling, but it can be argued it is a factor. You may still walk through the local beer shop and pick up a Great Divide Yeti Stout*, because it’s one of the best ones out there, but people are still going to clammer for the next Jester King Atrial Rubicite release or stand fly into Munster, Indiana for the 3 Floyds Dark Lord Day, over something they’ve had once or twice before. For some it’s simply chasing that next release, for others, like myself, it is/was because I thought that beer I liked would always be there.

But let’s not start pointing fingers, really no one is at fault. Not even ourselves.

“It had to be those beer fans fault,” I thought to myself. “They can’t even bring themselves to pick up a six-pack on the regular because their beer fridge is too full of tradable or rare beer!”

No, no, no.

I realized something.

In my full-size-completely-dedicated-to-beer refrigerator there was a six-pack of my favorite beer I’d bought some months back, but it was the first I’d bought in a while.

My fridge wasn’t full of my favorite beer. It was just 3 extra cans leftover from the pack.

Suddenly, I learned a lesson in supply and demand and it taught me that we each have a choice every time walk into the store, bar, or restaurant. That choice is quite simple and it is also quite powerful.

Luckily, there is plenty out there and the field is prime for the picking. I may miss my favorite beer, but there is plenty more where that came from. And that choice is a great thing to celebrate.

What’s next, chief?

 

 


*This isn’t to say people aren’t buying Great Divide Yeti, my point is that people are grabbing the latest and greatest first and seem to be spending their money on stuff that’s already around if they have any budget left over. Largely, with the amount of breweries around, people are finding it pretty easy to make a beer run and buy only beer they’ve never had before, or are rare. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can become a problem. Remember, buy good beer, and local if you can.

Podcast #6 – Turning Point Beer

New England-style / Hazy IPAs are something of a trend that has been quickly growing in American beer. How you define these beers is not agreed upon, BCBJ and the Brewer’s Association both seem to be dragging their feet on something that has been around for at least two or three years, but beer fans are clamoring for them nonetheless.

And while trends often start in urban city centers, the NE IPA trend seems to be beginning in the suburbs of North Texas with Turning Point Beer. A group of four friends working in the beer industry are looking from taking their full-time jobs and weekend passions for homebrewing to the professional level.

Michael and I met the guys in their bachelor pad garage and chatted their beer and little bit about beer climate, while they continued to let us know that James Herrington (of The Collective Brewing Project) is not involved in the project and is just in it for hiding from his family and drinking free beer. And what their plan was to open up on Bedford, Texas and hopefully be the base for continuing to grow and encourage good, well-crafted beer in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area.

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Podcast #5 – Interview with Matt Dixon of Dallas Brew Scene

In the past five years, the North Texas / Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex beer scene has changed in a lot of ways. Expansion, openings, closings, and North Texas Beer Week, Matt Dixon of Dallas Brew Scene/Dallas Brew Bus and Executive Director of North Texas Beer Week, has seen it all.

Matt made the drive over to Fort Worth to chat with us about the last five years, good and bad things that have happened, and why the future is very bright for North Texas beer, if we want it.

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Food and Wine Take on Beer Event a Hit

Operating in it’s fourth year, the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival is not the first food and wine festival in the state. The well-executed festival, which takes it’s proceeds and donates them to local culinary scholarship funds and grant makers, shows food and wine fans that Fort Worth and the surrounding area has much to offer when it comes to culinary and drink talent.

Offering up five events focused around various meals (brunch, desserts, BBQ, and main courses), the final event, Burgers, Brews + Blues, takes a slight turn from the more foodie-like dishes and focuses on chef-prepared burgers, craft beer and blues music. And when I say chef-prepared, the line-up is stacked with folks from Fort Worth’s own Rodeo Goat, Swiss Pastry Shop, and even Dallas’ star, LUCK, serving up some of the best burgers you will ever taste.

Even with a large focus on the burgers, there was no skimping on the beer line-up available for you to wash down those tasty burgers. And with an festival with wine in it’s name, one could make an assumption that the beer was going to be an after-thought; but this most certainly wasn’t true of Burgers, Brews + Blues.

From my own experience at other non-beer focused festivals, I expected a brewery line-up focused on distributor chosen brews. Typically, this means the distribution company is a sponsor and part of their sponsorship gave them an opportunity to choose the top beers to be displayed. This often means beer fans are stuck with what sales well, or to the dismay of some beer fans, what is the cheapest.

I’m happy to say, this is not the case with the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival.

While I’m sure a distributor might have been involved, the line-up reflected a great representation of local and Texas breweries and their appeared to be a great deal of fore-thought put into the local breweries serving up their beer. Every brewery currently open in Fort Worth was present, with others from around North Texas, small town Texas and, even Texas’ oldest brewery, Houston’s own St. Arnold Brewing. Big props to the organizers for a well-rounded line-up that paired quite well with the burgers we consumed.

And don’t worry, there wasn’t a Budweiser, Miller Lite, or Mike’s Hard Lemonade in sight. For a younger festival not focused on beer, this is a huge deal to see them focus on craft only.

Now, let’s be clear for all of you beer festival lovers. This wasn’t a festival full of rare or limited-release brews, but to be clear that wasn’t the point of this event. The focus was very simple: a great time with delicious burgers paired with well-crafted beers, all the while listening to entertaining blues music and supporting a local 501 (c)3 charity.

Burgers, Brews + Blues was a great event that felt like a sigh of relief from some of the insanely packed and (sometimes) drunk fests that some music and drink festivals have become. I’d really like to see more events like this that not only focus on the marriage of beer and food, but also the careful choice of the vendors represented. I believe that breweries, much like chef-run restaurants, focused on quality products can come together for quality events, like this, without having to bring up sales or a distributor’s opinion.

I’ll be back next year.

Header image from FortWorthFoodandWineFestival.com by Farrar Photography.