Thursday, February 21, 2013
Craft beer scene spawns bike and bus brewery tours in North Texas
Now that we've got all these breweries, why not use them?
A colorful crowd of 20-somethings gathers round a picnic table, each with a freshly poured pint. They toast to a beautiful weekend afternoon and savor the flavor of a hoppy local brew. Their next one lies nearly two miles down the road.
Before 2012, just one or two breweries existed in North Texas. Today, Dallas is a boomtown for craft beer, with more than 10 independent establishments.
A new way to enjoy craft beer is to take a bus or bike to several breweries, all in an afternoon. Appropriate for beer nerds and even novices, hopping on an organized group tour is an easy way to drink up Dallas' latest trend.
Last weekend, for instance, more than 150 cyclists met at Klyde Warren Park before embarking on a 5-mile ride to Community Beer Company, Four Corners Brewing Co., and Chicken Scratch/The Foundry. (The last is not a brewery, though it is a craft beer destination). Adam Donaghey, vice president of Aviation Cinemas and an attendee on the bike tour, said the ride was exceptionally pleasant because it involved both socializing and exercise.
“Anytime you can move people around from various bars or brew pubs, people are enjoying themselves more because they feel like they’re getting more out of it,” Donaghey said.
Saturday, February 23, another tour, organized by Dallas Brew Scene, will shuttle 34 patrons by bus to Community Beer Company, Four Corners, and Lakewood Brewing Co. Matt Dixon, founder of Dallas Brew Scene and organizer of the tour, said tickets to the event sold out in four days. He has another bus escapade scheduled for March 23.
The tours expose the glaring differences between each brewery’s beers, equipment, and facilities, Dixon said. “We wanted people in the area and across the country to see there is a craft beer scene in Dallas and it’s growing.”
How brewery tours work
Organized tours are often scheduled as private events at the breweries, depending on how large the group. Private tours are beneficial for up-and-coming companies since Texas state laws -- most notably, the Blue Law -- are stringent on when and for how long breweries can stay open each day, Dixon said.
Bicycle Brewery Tour
Breweries are not permitted to sell beer on facility premises, so patrons normally pay $10-$15 for entry, which includes free samples. And generally, groups get a discounted rate, said Kevin Carr, founder of Community Beer Company.
“From the brewery’s standpoint, we’re able to educate the public about craft beer, and it’s good to just have people in the space and have that energy,” Carr said.
One obvious issue here involves safety -- the thought of “beer on wheels” might rightly make some wary. However, supporters of the tours counter that argument. Dixon said having a sober bus driver makes time for educational conversation between breweries as well as time to munch. And the good is just as good as the beer: Luck Dallas will be providing a lemongrass, braised brisket Bahn Mi on the trip this weekend.
For bicycle brewery tours, Donaghey said self-discipline is part of the equation, as is the break in drinks to pedal to the next location safely. But he said the mentality of many craft beer drinkers is not aimed at drinking too much.
“There are so many people to talk to and so much movement going on, I think you’re actually less likely to drink too much than at a bar,” he said. The more predominate safety issue involves the city’s bike-unfriendly infrastructure that can be dangerous -- beer or no beer, he added.
Trend toward more "true brew pubs"
Now that the localized community is catching on, what does the future hold for craft brewing? Industry experts and enthusiasts we talked to agreed it's onward and upward from here.
Brandon Wurtz, customer relationship manager of Bank of America Home Retention and a home brew hobbyist, said craft beer options in North Texas will undoubtedly expand because most who get into the "science and art of brewing" on a personal basis aspire to own their own business. Plus, there’s plenty more room for more to join the party, he said.
“The first breweries that have opened up — Peticolas, Deep Ellum Brewing, and Lakewood — did a lot of the groundwork in the area by changing the laws,” Wurtz said. “Seeing their success opens way for investment and shows those business can flourish.”
Dixon of Dallas Brew Scene hopes to see more laws change in favor of microbreweries as well as an increase in true brew pubs (small establishments that brew original recipes on site). The end-all be-all, he said, would be when Dallas becomes a legitimate craft beer destination, akin to the tourist mainstays of Portland and Fort Collins, Colo.
Carr at Community Beer Company agreed. “If you look at other markets that have had a craft beer-centric culture for a long time, we’re in the early stage of Dallas becoming a city like that,” he said.
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