Once again we find ourselves on the cusp of a new year, and once again we marvel at the growth the craft beer industry continues to experience here in Texas. Most of the news is good, and though a few lingering negatives remind us there is still much work to be done, you can’t help but feel good about the future.
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get to it. I present to you the good, the bad, and the beer from 2011.
More beer here
Retail again saw an influx of new-to-market national brands with the arrival of brews from Clown Shoes, Maui Brewing, Napa Smith and the Utah Brewers Cooperative (Wasatch/Squatters).
Still others follow the adage “what’s old is new again” as classic Belgian brews from Liefmans and Rochefort have returned after a long absence.
Deep Ellum opens first new craft brewery in Dallas
I can think of no more significant event for the North Texas craft beer community than the opening of Dallas’ first new craft brewery. After a long wait, and significant hurdles, Deep Ellum Brewing Company began pouring their unique brand of beer in November.
Hot on their heels are the two other area upstarts. Peticolas Brewing Company plans to brew their first batch this week, while Lakewood Brewing Company has finally found a home in the city of Garland.
Dallas Beer Week
The Beatles had it right when they sang Eight Days a Week, for that’s how long we had to enjoy this first-time venture. With multiple events to choose from each night, Dallas Beer Week featured numerous rare tappings and sold-out beer dinners all over town.
Craft beer consumers find a voice in Open the Taps
The founders of the consumer advocacy group Open the Taps are serious drinkers, and by that I mean they are seriously focused on bringing about change in the archaic and oftentimes nonsensical legislation that hinders the growth of our industry in Texas.
Join today and help support their efforts in preparation for the 2013 legislative session.
Authentic Beverages sows the seeds of change
Speaking of legislative change, Authentic Beverages struck a blow in its action against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) when a federal judge declared certain rules in its oversight code to be unconstitutional.
As a result, breweries will now be permitted to inform customers where their products may be purchased, and labeling issues related to “beer” vs. “ale” should be a thing of the past.
On the downside, Authentic was unsuccessful in its challenge to laws which currently prevent on-premise brewery sales, as well as the ability of brewpubs to sell to retailers and distributors. These items will be the focus of Open the Taps in the coming year.
Dallas Beer Festival falls victim to slow tickets sales
As good as Dallas Beer Week was, the cancellation of the culminating Dallas Beer Festival due to poor ticket sales was a disappointment.
It’s not clear if this is a sign of more significant underlying issues locally (as in, will Dallas ever be a “beer” town?), but all eyes now turn to the Big Texas Beer Fest as they seek to deliver on the promise of a defining Texas event.
Consolidation and the laws of supply and demand
Earlier this year, the industry was flooded with news of consolidation and breweries pulling out of regional markets. While this speaks to increased demand for craft beer nationwide, the news is not all good.
Consolidation, while good for breweries seeking to share costs in order to meet demand, risks watering down well-established local brands and dulling the passion of the communities that helped build them. As an example, consider the tale of Magic Hat and recent comments from former brewer Matt Cohen.
As for brand pull-outs, while big names like Dogfish, Avery and Great Divide have ceased distribution in multiple states, Texas has for the most part been spared with Allagash being the only significant departure.
It’s not a top ten list, but the following brews represent some of my favorites of the past year in the categories that fit them best. Cheers!
Best brew we hardly knew:
Oskar Blues Old Chub aged on Hungarian oak
Seemingly out of nowhere, over the summer The Holy Grail Pub tapped a brew we’d not seen before and haven’t seen since: Oskar Blues Old Chub aged on Hungarian oak. Old Chub is a fine Scottish-style ale to begin with, but add a hint of fresh oak, some sweet bourbon, and a splash of vanilla, and it takes this brew to a whole new level.
Best collaborative brew:
Baird/Ishii/Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA
In all honestly, I’m typically not overly fond of collaborative brews. Too often, it seems, these meetings of the minds result in good, but not great brews that don’t reflect the creativity and unique spirit of those involved.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Case in point; the Baird/Ishii/Stone collaboration Japanese Green Tea IPA. Not only a great collaborative effort, this vibrant and distinctively hoppy brew was also one of the best IPAs to come along in quite some time.
Also notable: Jester King/Mikkeller Drink’in the Sunbelt
Best beer most likely to become a fridge staple:
Maui CoCoNut Porter
Forget likely, Maui’s robust porter has secured permanent residence on a shelf in my fridge perfectly sized for craft cans. Toasted coconut mingles with layers of roasted malt, chocolate and coffee in what amounts to a brewing blueprint for “milk porter”.
Also notable: Avery Joe’s Premium American Pilsner
Best beer brewed in Texas:
Real Ale Volume XIV
Although only available early on, this beer was good enough to stay atop my list of favorites all year long. A barrel-aged version of Real Ale’s 14th Anniversary Ale, time spent in red wine barrels added fresh grapes, rich wood tones, and a soft tannic finish to an already outstanding American strong ale.
All the best for a safe and prosperous New Year!
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