Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Get to know your DFW craft breweries with this handy tour guide
Consider each tour a three-hour party with good beer on the cheap.
Call it an adult field trip: Microbrewery tours are one of Dallas-Fort Worth's hottest party trends. Far from a snoozy excursion through factory equipment, tours typically offer requisite beer geekery plus the built-in permission to imbibe before 5. They're the least expensive way to experience North Texas' booming craft beer movement, to boot.
Texas law mandates that breweries are unable to sell on-site. For that reason, tours usually involve three to four samples, often amounting to full pints, poured in collectable glassware that is included in an inexpensive $7-12 admission fee -- roughly the same price of a single pint of craft beer at a bar or restaurant. While each tour differs based on its respective brewery’s personality and product, on the whole, local brewery tours are reasonably-priced three to four hour parties where like-minded enthusiasts can enjoy homegrown Texas flavor.
But, with so many new breweries cropping up –- many in 2012 alone -– it’s reasonable to wonder where to start or which meets your particular desires. Here is a rundown of some of North Texas’ best brewery tours to help you decide when, where, and how often to visit. If you can, try them all.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company – The Daddy of All Local Breweries
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company
Tours: Saturdays 1-3 p.m., Wednesdays 5-7:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 tour includes pint glass and 3-6 samples
701 Galveston Avenue in Fort Worth
Though Fritz Rahr’s sons were still in elementary school when he established his Fort Worth brewery in 2004, he and his wife Erin ensured that the Rahr boys were already part of the brewery’s legacy. Since its inception, Rahr & Sons Brewing Company has grown to a 20,000 square-foot facility that produces more than 5,000 barrels of German style beer per year in Fort Worth. But, despite the fact that it is North Texas’ oldest surviving, most firmly established, and most sophisticated brewing facility, Rahr still consistently produces a warm, hometown atmosphere at its biweekly brewery tours. Some might argue that Fort Worth is just more down-to-earth. The tasting room’s open, hofbrau-style seating does lend itself to mingling among strangers, but the tight-knit community that Rahr has built is anything but a coincidence. Many Rahr volunteers have been showing up weekly for a half decade or more, and some even travel together on “Brew Cruises” to varying exotic locations. Whether your passion is philanthropy, music, the environment, or running, Rahr likely already hosts an event to suit your fancy. If they don’t, just ask: This Big Daddy brewery keeps his family happy.
Deep Ellum Brewing Company – Four Horsemen of the Beerpocalypse
Deep Ellum Brewing Company
Tours: Thursdays 6-8:30 p.m., Saturdays noon to 3 p.m.
Cost: $10 tour includes pint glass and 4 samples
2823 Saint Louis Street in Dallas
Others have tried and failed, but as of November 2012, Deep Ellum Brewing Company has overwhelmingly succeeded as the flagship brewery of Dallas proper. It's run by four dudes with big personalities and an even bigger yen for serious craft beer. DEBC is just like its neighborhood: Situated outside the establishment and unafraid to stand up to the Man. It’s artsy and a little rock-n-roll, with creative branding that looks more like indie band posters than traditional beer labels. Unlike many of its local competitors, it is not expressly family-operated, and, perhaps for that reason, its tours seem to attract a predominantly younger crowd. The atmosphere can sometimes feel insular and less conducive to intermingling outside one’s group. But, tours have seen no shortage of patrons lining up for a taste of its flagship IPA or citrusy Dallas Blonde session ale, which goes down all too smoothly in the DEBC beer garden, constructed of massive wooden spools. During the winter months, you can really impress your Valentine by eschewing the Russel Stovers for DEBC’s underrated Cherry Chocolate Double Brown Stout, which returns triumphantly in February.
A bit older, a bit wiser, but still maintaining its punk rock heritage, DEBC is the second coming of craft beer in Dallas.
Peticolas Brewing Company – The Marrying Kind
Peticolas Brewing Company
Tours: 1st & 3rd Saturdays from 1-3 p.m. (beginning Feb. 2)
Cost: $10 tour includes 3 samples
2026 Farrington Street in Dallas
If you had ever worked in the legal field, you might have turned to drink, too. In Michael Peticolas’ case that meant dropping his day job as a legal eagle and hitting the Design District as brewmaster of his eponymous brewing company. While many hometown recipes have garnered cult followings over the last couple of years, few have reached the all-out lusty madness instilled by Peticolas’ sexy redhead, the aptly-named Velvet Hammer. In fact, to celebrate the brewery’s one-year anniversary and expansion project, the brewery hosted a “wedding” in which a fan, Ali Kay, “married” the Imperial Red Ale and all of its whopping 9 percent ABV in a ceremony of epic and epically odd proportions. Velvet Hammer is available in half gallon (64 oz.) growlers, fillable at select Whole Foods stores and specialty beer stores for a mere $7.99. The brewery has so far only been open for special events, but it will begin regular tours on Feb. 2, which will recur on the first and third Saturdays of each month. Until then, catch them on tap at more than 50 locations throughout Dallas/Fort Worth.
Lakewood Brewing Company – The Captivating Siren
Lakewood Brewing Company
Tours: Saturdays noon to 3 p.m., tour starting at 1:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 tour includes tulip glass and four samples
2302 Executive Drive in Garland
Tour veterans won’t be surprised to learn that Lakewood Brewing Company founder, Wim Bens, apprenticed at Rahr. The atmosphere at LBC tours in Garland is remarkably similar to its Fort Worth heritage, and in all the right ways. Folks are friendly, the music’s loud, and the volunteer bartenders are generous with the pours. Guests intermingle slightly less thoroughly than in Fort Worth, but perhaps that is more a function of LBC’s youth than a cultural statement. And, while the brewery is too new to have amassed as many “regulars,” on any given Saturday, the 1,000 square-foot tasting room is packed with happy revelers sitting on picnic benches constructed from kegs and upcycled shipping pallets.
The actual tour is both brief and amusing – Bens hops up on a ladder with a mic so patrons can continue sipping at their seats – and he is full of quirky musings about his “liquid bread.” Inviting guests into the “bedroom of the brewery, where the magic happens,” he jokingly introduces the crowd to his Belgian-style collection of biers, which includes the already-recognizable Rock Ryder and Hop Trapp. Lakewood’s greatest claim to fame, however, is The Temptress, an Imperial Milk Stout with dark chocolate tones and a silky but complex body. Temptress recently garnered national buzz, having made the shortlist for The Full Pint’s “Best Craft Beer of 2012.” We've already fallen captive to her siren song.
Four Corners Brewing Company – Westside Story
Four Corners Brewing Company
Tours: Local Flavor Showcases (monthly block party, TBA). $10-$15.
2nd & 4th Thursdays 90 minute tours at 4, 6, and 8 p.m. (starting Jan. 24). $10 tour includes pint glasses and 3 samples
423 Singleton Avenue in Dallas
For too long, West Dallas has been known as a rougher side of town, bustling with rumors of outlaws and untouchables – it is, after all, the historic hang-out of Bonnie and Clyde. But, last year another young business opened on the “wrong” side of the Trinity, becoming proof that Four Corners do make a right. Co-founders George Esquivel and Steve Porcari host monthly Local Flavor Showcases, which are essentially massive block parties that encourage patrons to experience the revitalizing neighborhood with a backdrop of the Dallas skyline and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. During the parties, guests enjoy Four Corners’ “all day” ales, which include Local Buzz, a honey-rye golden ale, and Block Party, a robust porter, plus several shades in between.
Beginning Jan. 24, the brewery is also adding 90 minute tours on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month at 4, 6, and 8 p.m. While the block parties are rowdy fun with many moving parts, the new tours will grant patrons a more intimate look into the operation.
FireWheel Brewing Company – A Country Beer Can Survive
FireWheel Brewing Company
Tours: Saturdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (drop in anytime)
Cost: $10 tour includes pint glass and 4 samples ($2 to upgrade to tulip glass)
2806 Lawing Lane, Suite C in Rowlett
Brewery tour rookies might find themselves a bit unsure when entering Brad Perkinson’s laboratory; in fact, FireWheel looks a bit like an old country VFW, or veterinary office, as his and wife Jenny’s two labradoodles, Barley and Penny, are wont to run amok. But, what the brewery lacks in décor or cutting-edge equipment is made up for in personality and cold brews. Perkinson has long been an avid home-brewer, and he’d already produced 43 batches when he was laid off from his job in the finance industry in September 2011. FireWheel officially opened nearly a year later in August 2012, and for now, it rocks a bit of a large-scale home brewing persona. Much of the facility’s equipment was customized by Perkinson himself; he even built a fire pit when a November tour turned out colder than expected. And, while he might not have the brewing certifications of a few of his competitors – he holds a BA in finance from UT Dallas – there’s no denying that FireWheel holds its own among more formally credentialed brewmasters. From Midnight Ninja – a black ale with 8 percent ABV that “sneaks up on you” – to Special #1, a recently-released brown ale that Perkinson claims came to him in a dream, FireWheel meets the already high-standards of Dallas brews without so much as a hiccup. (At least not until you’ve knocked back a few.)
With the newly-opened DART station a mere 10 minute walk away, this brewery brings craft beer to the boonies without the pretense.
North Texas has seen so many new breweries crop up – even during the process of compiling this story – that we could hardly get them all in one guide. Stay tuned for our second installment including Franconia, Revolver, Community Beer Company, and more.
Meddlesome Moth in the Design District
Common Table in Uptown
World of Beer on SMU Boulevard
World Beer Company on Lower Greenville
Craft and Growler in Fair Park
Goodfriend in East Dallas
Strangeways on Fitzhugh
Flying Saucer in Addison (with locations in Fort Worth and on Lake Ray Hubbard)
Union Bear in Uptown Dallas
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- Beer, part 2: Get to know even more of your local craft breweries
- Lakewood Brewing Company is lining up four new beers for spring and summer
- Craft beer scene spawns bike and bus brewery tours in North Texas
- Looking for dinner and a game of bocce? Try Samar by Stephan Pyles
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- First look: Read Contemporary shows obscure work by emerging Aboriginal artists
- Photos: Design District's artsy new vino retailer, The Wine Poste, opened grandly on Saturday
- Photos: Homegrown hopmasters debut new beers at Brew Riot in Oak Cliff