Wish You Were Beer

By Hannah Allen – hallen@blitzweekly.com & Cote Bailey  – comments@blitzweekly.com

In many cities in the great US of A you’ll find craft brews on tap even in the Mom n’ Pop shops in small towns. Not so much in the Lone Star State where we like our Budweiser and Shiner Bock, though. It seems we’ve lagged behind on the micro-brewery pride but as the live local mentality inches it’s way across our slick city small breweries are cropping up quicker than hipsters in the Bishop Arts District. Here is the rundown on what and where you can expect to find some of the best and the newest breweries in the Metroplex.

Lakewood Brewing Company

Started by Belgian born but Texas raised Wim Bens in 2010 with a few friends he’d met through work at an advertising agency. This brewery blends the science of beer making with the art of legend, language and style. “I studied advertising at SMU but I started out as a pre-med major. I always was really active in theater and really active in art so there was sort of two sides to me, I had this really analytical side and this really creative side and that’s what I really like about beer because it is the perfect balance of art and science.” With an Imperial Milk Stout called The Temptress, which sits at an intense 8.5 ABV and has been described as “sex in a glass” one begins to see Bens uniquely poetic artistry. Another of Lakewood Brewing Company’s standard brews is the Rock Ryder a wheat and rye concoction Bens describes as a “Texas Summer Beer.” Along with Hop Trapp and Lakewood Lager they should be on tap locally this month. The endeavor of opening a brewery is not a simple one and Bens says, “Being that there are not very many of us in north Texas we all stick together. We all kind of use each other as a sounding board. Some people reveal more than others but once you’ve been through this ringer you want to pay it forward.”

Firewheel Brewing Company

Brad Perkinson is a local through and through. Born in Carrolton and educated at UTD he didn’t even like beer until his senior year of college. “I was a margarita guy for the most part,” he says with a chuckle. Educated at a master’s level in business and finance he tackles his new role as entrepreneur with enthusiasm and realistic excitement. After a layoff in 2010, the 26-year-old decided to take his home brewing habit and make it into something more. After piecing together enough equipment for a commercial outfit he launched his signature Texas Style Pale Ale at The Common Table last month. Wanting to remain local and grow as he goes he’s currently a one-man operation and shies away from the term title Brewmaster. “I know the process but I’ll never master the science. Once you master something you become complacent,” Perkinson said. His hope is that the Firewheel brand will become synonymous with the suburbs on the east side of Dallas such as Rowlette, Sachse and Rockwall as much as the Big D herself. “I don’t want to drive all the way to Dallas if I want a local beer, we need something on this side of town.”

Franconia Brewing Company

The pioneer of Dallas area micro-breweries Dennis Wehrmann is the closest we’ve found to someone who has beer flowing in his actual veins. “Maybe not since I was a baby, but since I was a small boy I’ve been in a brewery,” Wehrmann says. His brewing experience began as a child in Germany and his family’s involvement in beer making stretches back as far as the 1800s. Educated at Munich University in beer making he boasts the most street cred by our – if not everyone’s – standards. After taking a job with an American brew chain he moved to our fair city in 2003 and by 2008 was running his own brewery in McKinney. A forerunner in the recent craft brew boom, he doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with the community’s rising stars. “Personally, I don’t look at this as competition, there is a market here and we can have a positive impact. In the back of the house it’s helping each other out, in the front of the house it’s healthy competition.” Wehrmann takes beer making in stride and talks about it in an incredibly non-intimidating sort of way. Franconia’s six year-round and seven seasonal German style beers lack gimmicky names (Franconia Hefeweizen, Franconia Lager, Franconia Pils etc.) giving Wehrmann’s style the remarkably no-nonsense quality indicative of a Texan

Peticolas Brewing Company

One of three breweries in Dallas proper Peticolas Brewing Company was launched by a successful attorney who was “looking for something else to do” in 2010. Michael Peticolas enrolled in the American Brewers Guild’s intensive program in Vermont after he and his wife Melissa decided they’d rather be in business for themselves. The result is a family run brewery, says Peticolas. “It really is just a modern day mom and pop shop – it’s just me and my wife and my seven-year-old and my twins. There is no one else who owns a penny of it.”

With a grass roots and word of mouth marketing plan and slow growth mindset their beer is thriving and selling out at many hotspots around town. A deep love for Dallas and her culture is a strong driving force for Peticolas though both the name of the business and the catchy names for each of their limited release brews (Velvet Hammer, Golden Opportunity, Great Scot!) aren’t derivative of the city or the scenery. This is intentional and sets the brand apart in many ways, allowing room for broad appeal without the outsider perception of Dallas or Texas in general. “America lagged behind all these other countries in terms of full flavored beer because of prohibition and all sorts of marketing by the big boys for years and years and years.” Texas, he says, lagged behind even after other states began to see a growth in local craft beer and Dallas lagged behind most of all. “That’s the good thing about more than one brewery opening up at a time. It creates the awareness in the market and there is room for it.”  Although, there are no plans for bottling in the near future you can go to places like Whole Foods and the Bottle Shop for growlers and enjoy the effects of the 9% ABV Velvet Hammer, an imperial red ale, in the comfort (and security) of your own living room.

Deep Ellum Brewing Company

Perhaps the most established in terms of distribution and swanky in terms of presentation the guys at DEBC follow an uncompromising vision of owner John Reardon. “We didn’t want to be a cookie-cutter brewery and sort of walk the middle of the road and we had a lot of eyes on us as the first brewery in Dallas,” Reardon says. Their staple brew is the Deep Ellum IPA which is touted at many Dallas hang-outs and restaurants. In July they launched their two newest creations, Wealth and Taste, a Belgian style golden strong made with Muscat white wine grape juice and aged in chardonnay barrels and Dallas Blonde an easy-drinking citrusy, floral summer beer – their tribute to the great Dallas blondes of legend. Reardon says he caught the brew bug in college at the University of Colorado where he studied business and finance. Ultimately, brewing became his passion and his desire to bring craft beer to his native Dallas resulted in an uncompromising vision that earned him the title of not only owner but also Head Evangelist. “ A lot of what we do is based on John’s vision,” says brand and sales ninja Tait Lifto. “What we do as a staff is make his vision happen – we don’t compromise. We’re here because you shouldn’t have to compromise; there is good beer in the world.” Full of statistics and sales pitches about the future of craft beer Reardon says Dallas has responded remarkably well to his and his fellow brewers creations for a market that was considered a dumbed-down beer market. “We’re all fighting these huge corporate conglomerates and major distributors. We’re all on the same team.”

Four Corners Brewery

Brewmaster and Oak Cliff resident John M. Sims is a veteran of the local brew scene. His career began 20 years ago at Yegua Creek Brew Pub on Henderson and Coppertank Brewing Co. in Deep Ellum. “I love brewing. The machines, the science, the chemistry it’s the work [emphasis on work] that I love,” says the former president of the Craft Brewers Association of Texas. After watching the community of local brewers dissolve several years ago he busied himself raising kids and building machinery. When an opportunity to brew again professionally in Austin presented itself a year and a half ago he was devastated that bad timing forced him to decline the offer. In desperation, he says, he sat down at his computer and entered a Google search for “brewery in Oak Cliff,” even though he was positive he’d find nothing. To his surprise his search turned up a name, which led to meetings and eventually a space on Singleton in Oak Cliff. Four Corners Brewery plans to open this fall with six year round beers like Local Buzz, a honey and rye golden ale made with local North Dallas brand honey and Block Party, a robust English Porter. The seasonal beers, Sims says, will be “True to style; vienna Lager, Hefeweizen, IPA, Bocks, Stouts. To me it’s more of a challenge to produce beers that are true to style, because any beer can be called ‘experimental.’” First Four Corners will distribute to local bars and restaurants this fall but the machine savvy Sims says within a year he hopes to be bottling or canning his brew and supplying the public through retailers. “Everyone is pretty excited to have a community,” Sims says of the suddenly rejuvenated craft brewery scene. “It’s going to be nice to have a community here again.”

All of the breweries mentioned in this article have tours available in an effort to share the love of quality, locally crafted beer. All of them can be found on Facebook and Twitter. If they are not on tap at your favorite watering hole you can request they be placed there! Cheers!

The girl at the end of the bar not looking good enough yet? Don’t worry after you finish sampling all of these she’ll look like Scarlett Johansson.

Armadillo Ale Works

This mind-blowing Denton-based craft brew won’t be available for sale until late 2012/early 2013 due to “Something about health codes and how you can’t sell food that’s made in a garage and on a patio. Go figure!” But fret not human brew seeking missiles, their sodas (Bee’s Knees and Clawfoot) are ready to be sipped on the sweet sunsets of summer. And who knows Christmas may come early this year and you could be first in line to taste Denton’s finest.

Cedar Creek Brewery

I’d love to be up this creek without a paddle! Since 2010 Jim Elliot has been making some damn good beer. Don’t believe me? Just ask Scruffy McGee and sample the smoked alt that they produce in his honor. “S’what made his name a Cedar Creek legend. But drink this in scruples, ye lads and ye lasses, or, like Scruffy, you’ll fall down drunk, right on your asses.”

Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.

The Fort Worth giant is like tradition on tap. “The brand new beer with a 150-year history” is made with care a dedication that is a bold as the malt that’s used to produce it. In 2004 the brewery opened its doors and Fritz and Erin Rahr began their award-winning masterfully brewed journey including becoming the 2009 National Grand Champions from the United States Beer Tasting Championships for Iron Thistle.

Revolver  Brewing

You know there is something serious about a beer represented by two Colt revolvers. This father and son libation creation came from the minds of Ron and Rhett Keisler with the help of brew master Grant Wood. The Granbury greats now serve eight full-flavored barley pops for you to share with you friends and family.

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