Another year is in the books, and once again we are left to marvel at the growth of the craft beer scene in the Metroplex. Numbers are up across the board, with increases in the number of new breweries, the number of craft brands on neighborhood store shelves and the number of events celebrating the pursuit of better beer.
Most will tell you that the bubble has to burst sometime, but it remains to be seen whether or not 2013 will bring a slowdown in these trends, or yet another round of expansion throughout the industry. If things continue as they are, will such growth be seen as a good thing, or bad? It’s a question we’ll be asking ourselves throughout the new year.
Whatever happens, remember that the single most important thing you can do is to support the local breweries and businesses that have made it all possible.
Craft beer by the numbers:
- Breweries number nine – As the curtain fell on 2011, the Dallas area brewery count stood at three. Now, if you stretch our boundaries, we stand on the verge of ten. Add to that the promised debuts of Armadillo Ale Works, Independent Ale Works, Martin House, Reunion, 903 Brewers and a host of others targeting openings in the new year, and we could see our numbers pushing 20 by the close of 2013. Should that happen, it would represent a growth rate of nearly 600% in just two years. Some say that’s too many, while others say it’s too few. The only thing for certain is it’s too soon to tell.
- Brand identities – Last year at this time, I could count the number of newly distributed domestic and import craft brands on two hands. This year, I stopped counting at twenty. On the list of new arrivals are names like Alaskan, Ballast Point, Lazy Magnolia, Laughing Dog, Six Point, Left Coast, Shmaltz, Shipyard, Sea Dog and the list goes on. As for what’s on tap for 2013, there’s talk of Firestone Walker and Odell heading our way. Who’ll be next?
- Festivals go big time – In 2010, options for enjoying a beer in a festival-like atmosphere were limited to the Bluebonnet Brew-Off’s Commercial Beer Tasting, Brew Riot and the Flying Saucer’s Spring and Fall Beer Festivals. Fast-forward to the present, and not only have the number of significant beer-centric gatherings more than doubled, the scale has become greater as well. The North Texas Beer Festival, Dallas Brew Fest (formerly Brew at the Zoo), Big Texas Beer Fest, Dallas Untapped and Dallas Winter Warmer each drew thousands in a city of millions still swayed predominantly by big beer. One wonders what will happen when Dallas really becomes a craft beer town.
- Beer weeks go bonkers – These numbers are by no means exact, but counting my combined listings for Belgian Beer Week, American Craft Beer Week and Dallas Beer Week (DBW) in 2011, the total number of events came in at around 125. This year that number was well over 200, with DBW logging over 100 events on its own. It’s a fair argument to say that the DBW number was influenced by the already large increase in week-to-week events here locally, but there’s something to be said when your city can boast over a hundred craft beer happenings in a period of eight days. For a little perspective, consider this: my first events post in 2010 contained only 8 items.
- A brewery first – One minute Peticolas was never going to brew Royal Scandal again, and the next this brew was the first ever gold medal winner for a Dallas-based brewery at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). We trust, however, that one won’t be the loneliest number for long, with former GABF winners from past brewpubs coming online at Four Corners and the Community Beer Company.
The year in beer:
As is tradition, no end of the year post would be complete without a few beers to commemorate the occasion. They aren’t all from Texas and they aren’t all new, but each is a beer I particularly enjoyed during the past year.
- Fridge staple: Peticolas Velvet Hammer – There comes a point where there’s nothing really left to say about certain things in life. The Velvet Hammer would seem to be one of them. Ever since its debut, it’s enjoyed nothing less than cult status among the craft beer crowd. It’s not bottled, but thanks to growlers even draught-only brews can be fridge staples.
Also notable: Lakewood The Temptress, Deep Ellum IPA.
- Barrel-aged brew: Real Ale Volume XV – In the ever-growing sea of barrel-aged brews, Real Ale’s treatment of their 15th Anniversary Ale stood out above the rest. Prominent barrel characteristics, plentiful dark fruits and what I noted down as bourbon-dipped semi-sweet chocolate morsels seal the deal.
Also notable: Jester King Whiskey Rodeo, Great Divide 18th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA, Franconia Oak-aged Fall’n Bock.
- “Small’ beer of the year: Jester King Le Petit Prince – What do you get when you create a beer whose depth of character belies an ABV that is smaller than most macros? I dub thee, Le Petit Prince, the best little beer in Texas.
- A more flavorful lager: Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager – With notes of deep roast, dark chocolate and ground coffee, this somewhat generically named black lager is reminiscent of a robust porter minus the esters.
- Spot on to style: Boulevard Long Strange Tripel – While it’s not new, I only recently tried Boulevard’s Long Strange Tripel for the first time. Bready malt, earthy tropical fruit and peppery spices make this one of the better domestic interpretations of a Belgian classic.
Also notable: Great Divide Wolfgang Doppelbock, Harpoon Leviathan Baltic Porter.
- Collaborative brew: Jester King Beer Geek/Weasel/Whiskey Rodeo – Take your pick among any of the three “Rodeo” beers in the ongoing collaboration between Jester King and Mikkeller. These imperial oatmeal stouts build upon a similar favorite from the Danish brewer in Chipotle Porter (a.k.a. Texas Ranger).
Also notable: Boulevard Collaboration No. 3 Stingo.
All the best for a safe and prosperous New Year!
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