Sunday, September 8, 2013
Review: Untapped Festival brews a near-perfect day of indie beer and music
If only the weather had cooperated.
DALLAS There’s no question the third regional installment of Untapped Festival was a success. Both the inaugural Dallas festival last September and Untapped Fort Worth in the spring were met with rave reviews, and still Saturday’s event at Gilley’s South Side complex was the best yet.
Through a new partnership with Paste Magazine, local production company Spune took a good concept and polished it to near perfection. From the venue and vendor layout to musical and beer lineups, each detail seemed intentional. With forthcoming debuts in Houston, Nashville and Atlanta, Untapped festival is poised for (more) national acclaim.
Saturday began like many summer days in North Texas — oppressively hot with little relief from cloud coverage. Aside from the hardcore beer nerds who arrived at 1 p.m. for access to the rarest tappings, folks took their time getting to the festival, and several of the early musical performances were scantily attended. But by the heat of the day, the party was in full force as patrons bellied up at beer tents, lingering for a moment in the shade of each canopy.
Perhaps the greatest thing about this year’s Untapped Dallas was the ease and flow of the festival. With more than 70 breweries offerings more than 200 brews, the crowd stayed dispersed amongst the grounds and long lines seldom formed. Hopheads were able to enjoy their samples without immediately hopping to the next tent. This also allowed drinkers to try beers they wanted instead of choosing the shortest line.
Beer tents were purposefully arranged, segregating the local establishments from bigger name brands like Stone Brewing Company (Escondido, Calif.) and Boulevard Brewing Company (Kansas City).
Untapped also acted as an incubator for local businesses. North Texas companies like Hari Mari, Queen City Tattoo and Texas Brewing Inc. sat opposite the arm of local brewery tents and more than 10 food trucks, such as Easy Slider and Pompeii.
As expected, the beer selection was phenomenal and spanned an array of styles and eclectic flavors. I gravitated toward lighter brews to avoid feeling the weight of the weather. However, a cold pilsner, sour and stout alike tasted refreshing.
One of my favorites was the Summer Delight Berlinerveiss from Full Sail Brewery in Hood River, Oregon. Described by the server as “a shandy without the sweetness,” this hybrid wheat and sour beer packed a fruity punch with a subtly sour finish.
Armadillo Ale Works also made a delicious presence by reinventing its Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale. Co-founder Yianni Arestis hooked the keg up to a Randall, which spontaneously infused the beer with orange peel, dried strawberries, dried pineapple and hibiscus flower.
Krebs, Oklahoma-based brewery Prairie Artisan Ales came highly recommend among festivalgoers. Its Prairie Hops Beligan Ale and Funky Galaxy Strong Ale were classically unique, providing an easy drink for newbie craft drinkers as well as seasoned hopheads.
Despite the fact it felt like summer, fall recipes were boldly represented. Martin House Brewing Company in Fort Worth served its newest brew called Septemberfest, which is less hoppy and bitter than a usual autumn blend. The beer had a full-bodied smoky essence, but sipped smoothly.
Lakewood Brewing Company brought a cask of its Punkel Pumpkin Ale infused with rum-soaked oak chips, which added a bite to the aftertaste. The Ginger Spiced Ale from Japan-based brewery Hitachino Nest had a pleasant fall flavor, though it was not a holiday-themed brew and could easily pair with warm or brisk weather.
The Oktoberfest from Summit Brewing Company (St. Paul, Minnesota) stood out as the most approachable seasonal I tried. It was so light it seemed sessionable in Saturday’s heat.
Sticking to lighter beers, however, was not a foolproof plan to conquering Mother Nature. Coupling the weather with an endless amount of beer meant that many people left early, overtaken by the heat. A few were carried away after passing out. Allowing Untapped festivarians entry into Gilley’s air-conditioned lobby and Jack Daniel's Saloon was a saving grace. (Plus, patrons could use their restroom instead of the temporary, outdoor ones.)
The musical lineup of this year’s Dallas event felt especially integral. Spune said in a preparatory email to festival guests that it spent more money to bring in bigger bands. It paid off.
Hip-hop collective Blackalicious broke the drone of indie rock that dominated previous Untapped festivals and offered spiritual reprieve when the sun shone the brightest. Leader and esteemed rapper Gift of Gab staked his claim as the “paragraph president,” spitting rhymes faster than a tire burning rubber.
Other highlights included New York indie rockers Cults, who brought pop-inspired flair to the stage in a whirlwind of blissful beats. And Delta Spirit closed out the evening with an energetic rock set that engaged even those there for the beer.
Though some commenters on Facebook voiced their qualms with Untapped — mainly inadequacies with Super VIP status — the grandeur of the fest cannot be overstated. Having attended every incarnation, I’ve seen exponential professional and organizational progress. We should be proud that this excellent festival originated in Dallas and will soon be shared with other cities.Follow @tineywristwatch
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