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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Photos: Five surprising revelations from the second annual Big Texas Beer Fest

Consider it a classy power hour.

Now, that's what you call enthusiasm.

Ben Torres / DMN Special Contributor

Now, that's what you call enthusiasm.

— Consider it a classy power hour that happened to last four hours. On Saturday, craft beer enthusiasts crammed into the Automobile Building at Fair Park at the second annual Big Texas Beer Fest for 2 oz. tastes from more than one hundred local, national, and international breweries.

With the $35 entry fee, revelers received 12 samples. Additional pass cards were a mere $2. We were able to sample only 25 of the more than 400 beers offered, so producing a review or comprehensive recap would be impossible. We were, however, able to put together five revelations before the dire need for carbs and a nap put us down for the count.

Franconia does "outlaw" right. We love McKinney's Franconia Brewing Company and are big supporters of brewmaster Dennis Wehrmann's strict adherence to Reinheitsgebot -- traditional German Purity Laws that restrict which ingredients can go into beer. Normally, we'd say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," as Franconia's normal roster is brilliant in its simplicity. However, for the brewery's fifth anniversary, Wehrmann decided to try something new, only a little and for a limited time. We got our hands on Franconia's Double IPA and were blown away with the brewery's temporary transgression. Sometimes it's good to be bad, and the light lawbreaking paid off.

Evil Owl sounds like something we'd love, but the brew unfortunately didn't live up to its name. San Antonio's Branchline Brewing Company gets the award for the most intimidating sounding beer -- and one of the coolest labels we've seen in awhile -- but it set our expectations impossibly high for something singular and intriguing. The American Amber Ale would be good for a patio and easy drinking, but likely won't blow any socks off.

Martin House's Imperial Texan, on the other hand, raised some eyebrows -- in a great way. Martin House, Fort Worth's newest craft brewery, tapped its first kegs just a little over a week ago, so its showing at the Beer Fest was a particularly timely way to introduce locals to what will likely become a North Texas standard. Having heard a lot of buzz, we were excited to try the brewery's signature Imperial Texan, and it stopped us in our tracks. It is comparable to Peticolas' Velvet Hammer -- a beer beyond reproach in our estimation -- but neither derivative nor plagiaristic. Rather than quickly moving onward to the next, we savored the Imperial Texan, impressed.

Josh Betts, 34, of Dallas, carb loaded. Smart choice.

Ben Torres / DMN Special Contributor

Josh Betts, 34, of Dallas, carb loaded. Smart choice.

We love local, but... One of the best things about Beer Fest was that it allowed us to sample brews from around the world. That is, after all, the best way to expand one's palate, taste, and knowledge. Among some of our international favorites were Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout -- an intensely sweet and milky brew better described as "boozy candy" -- and La Socarrada, a Spanish beer reminiscent of one of our local favorites, Revolver's Blood and Honey. La Socarrada is, ironically, an American Blonde Ale made in Xàtiva in Valencia, Spain, and it is a light, easy drinking beer with a smooth honey flavor accented with hints of rosemary. You can find Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout at a few places around town, Central Market and Vickery Park to name a few, and La Socarrada is on draft at World of Beer.

Cedar Creek's bacon-y brew gets us excited, leaves us feelin' confused. Rogue Ales made the first -- at least to our knowledge -- explicitly bacon-flavored brew awhile back when they partnered with Portland's Voodoo Doughnuts on their Bacon Maple Ale, but North Texas' own Cedar Creek Brewery could give them a run for their money with its Scruffy's Smoked Alt. The brewery's tag line is "taste the outdoors!" and to that end, Scruffy's does not disappoint; it's dark and smokey, almost like a liquid campfire with what we categorized as a vaguely "bacon-y" flavor. It was one of the most controversial brews we tasted -- it's got a real "love it or hate it" appeal -- and unquestionably one of the most creative. Even those of us who didn't care for it were excited that a local brewery showed so much standout chutzpah.

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