Tomorrow The Beer Drinkers Society Editor-in-Chief, Jamie Norton, and our Beer Reviewer, Ben Webster, will be married. To say goodbye to what Ben was and to celebrate his new life, we bachelor-partied like only Beer Drinkers would. No, we didn’t rush off to Vegas or collapse, drunkenly, in arm chairs of multiple gentlemen’s clubs. Instead we toured as many local craft breweries, sipped as many craft beers and laughed with as many beer nerds as the day would allow. Read on and hopefully we’ll inspire you to do the same!
Our day began at 8:30 with Bill Shaw of Cobra Brewing located in Lewisville, Tx.
Bill talked to us about Cobra’s brewing system and about their expansion to a 10 barrel system by the end of the year. We also learned Friday night tours at Cobra are the best times to try some of brewer, Neil MacCuish’s small test batches. After the talk and tour, we got down to the business of tasting! Each of us tried only 3 beers to keep our consumption at a responsible level. I tried their Hoppy Poppy “Dank”, a west coast style dank IPA that leans more toward fruity notes than the citrus of hops, Best Mistake Stout, which is a stout brewed with brownie mix (expect to see a nitro version) and Cobra’s Banana Hammock Hefeweizen, a German-style wheat beer brewed with bananas. All were amazing, but a bigger surprise than Cobra’s takes on these classic recipes was their hand crafted Cream Soda. Bill, happy with my surprise, said they keep a soda on draft at all times for beer floats and for those tourers that don’t imbibe beer.
To try some great brews head over to Cobra any Friday or Saturday night for some cooler brewery tours and remember that every 3rd Friday is Comedy Night, where you’ll catch a new and upcoming comedian.
Our next stop was FireWheel Brewing and some drinking time with founder and brewer, Brad Perkinson. Perkinson was in top form in his usual sleeveless FireWheel Brewing t-shirt despite a long night of working on his next location for the brewery. That’s right, FireWheel Brewing is expanding to a new, larger facility! After having some Special #1, a not so average brown ale, Midnight Ninja, FireWheel’s imperial black ale that is “as dark as night” and Liquid Assets, a very flavor yet light ale, Perkinson tapped a keg of his maple root beer. While we drank our root beers, he walked us through the brewery, we chatted about the brew system and what’s next for FireWheel Brewing. Expect to see Das Achtzehn (German for The 18) whose name origin is top secret, Redneck Redemption, an undying double imperial red ale that formed out of a power loss and an unnamed cascading dark rye ale soon. FireWheel will also be adding 3 new variants of the StrIPA, their strawberry IPA. We will soon see apple, raspberry and peach variants.
We then headed over to the new brewery location. Perkinson showed us where the cooler, the new 15 and 30 barrel tanks and the bar are going to be placed. The new location will open with 24 taps of FireWheel drinks, 20 of them beers and 4 sodas (rootbeer rotaters, orange, raspberry and lemon lime). We also got to see the new brewery bomb! “There is actually a munitions plant in Rowlett. There’s a long story between my landlord, the mayor of Garland, a FULL size wheel of cheese and this 6ft bomb.”
FireWheel tours run every Saturday 11-3pm. $10 gets you a glass and 3 pints of FireWheel Brewing beer! Keep checking back for updates on the new brewery details!
From FireWheel we headed over to walk the brewery and taste some Belgian-inspired brews from Lakewood Brewing. Craig Bradley, Lakewood’s gregarious and handsome Event and Marketing Manager, served up great brews in their beautiful taproom and led us out to the production area.
The first thing that catches your eye is the large brewhouse backed by rows of fermentation tanks. If you haven’t visited Lakewood and seen these fantastic steel monoliths, you should take a Saturday and do so. All these tanks add up to a 720 barrel brew system, but come January with Lakewood’s expansion, that capacity will double with the addition of four more 180 barrel fermentation tanks. That means they’ll send out even more beer for all us drinkers. The new building is currently under production with a proposed finish January 2015. That will give Lakewood 3 buildings all on Executive Dr; the original brewhouse which will contain packaging and the taproom, the new building will be all fermentation and the third building (aka House of Weird) is already used just for barrel-aging and cellaring those wonderful beers like the Bourbon Barrel Aged Temptress. When asked if Lakewood was going to release a one-off beer to celebrate the new building Bradley exclaimed, “I don’t know if there’ll be a special beer for the expansion, but there sure as hell is going to a big ass party.” Set your calendar to attend that party and expect to see even more barrel-aged Temptress and some new aged beers like Punkel at your local bar.
Sadly, we had to leave the good company, astonishingly great beer and mooi (look it up) taproom dedicated to Belgian brewing ingenuity because we still had more stops to make before the day was done!
After a quick food truck lunch at the lively and packed Klyde Warren Park, we hoofed it across the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge to meet up with Tony Drewry, lead singer of Shotgun Friday and driver of The Beerliner, and George Esquivel, co-founder of Four Corners Brewing. Despite his hectic schedule, Esquivel poured out some beers and walked us through the ins and outs of Four Corners. (Some fun taproom facts you might not know, the bar front is the old gym floor from The 1st Baptist Academy in Dallas and the booths were from the old La Grange in Deep Ellum.) Esquivel led us over to the wall of “before pics” that documented the Four Corners building remodel. Just the photographic history of what the building originally was and what it became is a testament of what Esquivel and partners, Greg Leftwich and Steve Porcari, had to do in 18 months to build the brewery. We learned that to add to their already impressive collection of beers like Local Buzz, El Chingon and Block Party, we can expect to see Dicel, named after an old, mislabeled diesel can left in the building by the former tenants.
We then headed out to the production floor after our walk down Four Corners Memory Lane. Standing between large fermentation tanks and pallets of cans stacked to the ceiling we learned Four Corners was producing 1,100 barrels of beer in their first year and this year they will throw 4 or 5,000 into the DFW market. Esquivel “All we can do is keep up with can demand.”
After another quick pint and a pic with the groom-to-be, Esquivel was off and we were out front with banjo man, renegade shotgunner and promoter of all things Texas craft beer, Tony Drewry and The North by Northwest Beerliner. We promptly hopped on the bus like kids invited into an ice cream truck. I’ll give you the stats and history of The Beerliner, but first you need to understand the man behind the wheel.
Drewry is the living embodiment of Texas Craft Beer. As the banjo player and vocalist for Shotgun Friday, he brings recognition and good times to every brewery the band plays, he was instrumental in craft beer happenings like; Community Beer Co’s brewing of Texas Pils, Texas Let’s Talk Craft Beer’s Dallas Group and The Texas Tavern League and soon the recently relocated Houston brewery, Brash, will release EZ7 a beer dedicated to Drewry and Shotgun Friday. Each can of EZ7 will have the line “Eventually this can will lead you to a man named ‘Tony’. You will find him on a Friday in Texas.” Stephen Nancarrow, founder of Texas Let’s Talk Craft Beer, said it best, “If not for him [Drewry], Texas craft beer would not be where it is today.”
Now that you’re acquainted with Drewry, let’s learn more about The Beerliner, NxNW and the 1400 miles between Austin and Denver. Davis Tucker, brewer and co-founder of North by Northwest in Austin and the man behind the legalization of brewpubs in texas, found a 1974 Bluebird school bus that had been refitted as a racecar cruise liner. Tucker each year makes a bicycle trip from Austin to Denver in time for The Great American Beer Festival all in the name of prostate cancer awareness. As support, bustronaut, Drewry, trails along with The Beerliner as Tucker stops at breweries along the 1400 mile route that heads north out of Texas, into New Mexico and ends the tiring journey in Denver, Colorado.
-The bus sports 3 large train horns
-Entertainment abounds with satellite, 3D TV and DVD player
-Top speed of 55 mph
-Cooler holds 4 half barrel kegs (standard size) or 16 sixth barrel kegs (for last year’s trip, Drewry hauled 40 kegs and 80 cases of beer to GABF)
-4 external taps
-2 bunks and 2 long couches
-Rear of bus is one large hydraulic supported ramp
-Drewry said “We’ve documented 50 points on this bus that open a beer.”
Check out The 1400 Mile site to support one of the riding teams or donate to vote whether Drewry shaves or saves his glorious beard.
We finished our day of brewery visits with Kevin Carr and Corey Dickenson at Community Beer Company. Carr is the founder of Community, but he keeps humble. As we toured with Dickinson, learned about brewer and microbiologist, Aric Hulsey’s yeast cultivation lab and sampled some great and rare beer, Carr spent his limited free time renovating 2 back rooms of the brewery. Only when we began drinking Glenstemmons, a bourbon barrel-aged scotch ale, and cracked a special firkin of Witbier aged on organic peach, did Carr stop for a moment to relax and chat.
Dickinson and Carr let us in on the growth and the near future plans of Community Beer Co. Per Dickinson, “We currently have 10 styles [of beer] on tap in our taproom and rotate unique firkins on Fridays.” That’s up from Community’s original 5 beer line-up when they started with 30 and 60 barrel fermenters and bright tanks. It’s astounding the growth Community has undergone with its addition of three 100 barrel fermenters, a 100 barrel bright tank, large tap room, kegging and bottling lines all since my first visit when I met Hulsey under the brewhouse bolting together pipes and interviewed a suit wearing Carr. With this new larger capacity, Community will add yet another beer to the Fall schedule with their release of an, as yet unnamed, russian imperial stout aged in whiskey and bourbon barrels from Breckenridge and Heaven Hill Distilleries in CO and KY. “Shaping up to be an awesome fall offering” says Dickinson. “Coming into fall we’re planning more barrel-aged and going from bombers to 4 packs.” For the last time of the day, we were terribly saddened and reluctant to be moving on, but our day was done, we had gorged ourselves on so many fantastic local brews and it was time to end the night. We bid farewell to Dickinson and Carr, wished our best to Hulsey and Jamie Fulton, head brewer, and caught Mike Demarco, Sales and Account Services, on his way in and finally started the quick trip back north to Denton.
On the drive home, we laughed and prattled on about the highlights of the day and what an amazing experience it all was. I realize it’s a bit of a monumental task to visit as many breweries as we did all in one day, but I encourage you to stop by one or two or hop on The Dallas Brew Bus to celebrate any special day. Birthdays, Father’s/Mother’s days, anniversaries or graduations, any of these occasions would be perfect! You, your friends and family will find nothing else is like a brewery tour and the local DFW brewers are more than happy to have you try some of their beers and ask questions about the art they love so dearly.