Arriving for the 2019 Craft Brewer's Conference (CBC), held last week in Denver, Colorado, immediate concerns went beyond the state of the brewing industry to that of an impending blizzard. Luckily the blizzard lacked bluster, at least in and around the city, allowing attendees to move about freely between conference seminars and downtown Denver breweries.
Naturally, one of the gathering's main draws was the Brewers Association's annual State of the Industry address given by Paul Gatza, senior vice president of the professional brewing division, and Bart Watson, chief economist.
According to data presented, over 7000 breweries operated all or part of 2018, with 1049 openings and 219 closures occurring (an all-time high).
That translates to a national closure rate of around 3%. Comparatively, the closure rate in North Texas was 2.67% for 2018, with 2 closures among 75 breweries operating all or part of last year.
Looking further at the chart above, the total number of breweries in the U.S. has nearly doubled in just four years. And, more are on the horizon. The federal government has issued over 10,000 active TTB permits, which means there are least 2500 or more breweries in planning across the country.
Regarding growth, craft beer grew only 4% overall for 2018, essentially remaining flat compared to 2017.
Looking at individual segments, breweries saw 16% growth, with brewpubs (restaurants with brewing operations) landing at 13%, and regional breweries staying stagnant at 0%.
Commenting on the results, Watson said he believes growth numbers in the mid-single digits aren't likely to change much unless brewers work to attract new drinkers. Along those lines, he and Gatza suggested breweries could try and appeal to other types of consumers by exploring things like beer hybridization (beer/wine hybrids, beer mixers, more barrel-aged options), adding distilling operations, and the use of cannabis.
Expanding craft beer's demographic* was another avenue discussed, with the topic of diversity being center stage during the conference. A panel led by Brewers Association diversity ambassador, Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, focused on strategies aimed at adding fresh faces and voices to the craft beer conversation, whether that be through brewery partnerships with community organizations or by sourcing new talent into the industry's workforce.
A key point brought up in those proceedings was that founders and brewers (i.e. those invested in the company) should endeavor to engage groups they seek to draw into their business. Not only that, it should be done in such a way that it's not just about checking a box to say you've reached out. Sponsoring a group's philanthropic effort is one thing, but actually participating and working together sends a stronger message of community and inclusion.
As for other items of interest, additional data specific to Texas was presented in two side seminars:
While going over broader numbers related to pricing and promotion, Nielsen shared data on how displays in Texas are affecting sales. In this case, a retailer having a display presence with lower price discount incentives (as opposed to having no display with a higher discount) resulted in more volume sales. The smaller discount also allowed for improved margin.
An analysis done by Audra Gaiziunas, owner of Brewed for her Ledger - an accounting/finance/strategy firm for the beer industry, tracked the impact of working with a tour operator on a Texas brewery's bottom line. The tour operator paid the brewery $5 per head for a tasting and tour, while also providing attendees with a free beer token for use on a later visit. Data showed guests returning to redeem the token bought an additional 1.2 beers on average, resulting in a gross margin increase through the taproom of 2%.
* The typical craft beer drinker is a white male, 21-34 years old, with an average household income of $87,000 per year.
Simply put, drinking local is how things are done at LUCK in Trinity Groves. Yet, the approach there doesn't just involve supporting those breweries that supply the restaurant's everyday beer lineup. Indeed, it's also about helping to get the word out on up-and-coming brewing companies yet to join the professional ranks.
LUCK goes about the latter by way of events like LUCKapalooza. Billed as a celebration of beer and music, the gathering differs from homebrew competitions that bring together both strict hobbyists and aspiring professionals. Instead, LUCKapalooza strives to offer patrons a taste of what's to come from companies actively working to open their doors in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The festivities were first held in 2015, and since then, over a dozen breweries have appeared at LUCKapalooza prior to going on to pour professionally (two others are opening soon). For 2019, eight more would-be wort wranglers attended the fifth annual event, each looking to add their name to the crop of contenders vying for the crown of next great North Texas craft brewery. Regarding where things stand on these projects, status updates are provided below.
Soul Fire Brewing Co. is currently under construction in Roanoke, with the brewery going into an existing structure that will house a food hall.
Also set to occupy existing structures, construction starts are pending at False Idol Brewing of North Richland Hills (currently making beer under license at Oak Cliff Brewing Co.) and Vector Brewing of Dallas.
Siren Rock Brewing Co. is being built from the ground up in Rockwall, with those behind the operation hoping to begin moving dirt within the next few weeks. Perhaps the most ambitious undertaking listed here, plans call for a 13,000 square foot space to be situated on a 1.25-acre site.
As for a few notable beers from among the day's offerings, Bleshoux created quite a bit of buzz with a blue Berliner weisse called Cove Theory. Others rating highly among attendees were False Idol's Train to Valhalla English Barleywine and the beer that ended up being my personal favorite, Duotone Fruited Smoothie Sour from Vector Brewing.
Hop & Sting Brewing Co., 3 Nations Brewing Co., Rabbit Hole Brewing, Peticolas Brewing Co., Oak Cliff Brewing Co.
Amidst Mother Nature's apparent struggle to keep the seasons straight, a beer festival broke out this past weekend in the form of the eighth annual Big Texas Beer Fest (BTBF). The meandering mercury had attendees reaching for a cold one on a warm Friday night, while Saturday's climate called for a barrel-aged stout to help stave off the chill.
Naturally, it being a beer fest, there were options aplenty for both extremes and everything in between. You could even indulge in other types of refreshment, with a variety of ciders, hard seltzers and kombucha available, not to mention the appearance of a non-alcoholic beer hustler looking to show off its new Heine.
Regarding the featured beverage, the event boasted more than 400 beers from over 90 breweries. Nearly two-thirds of those brewing companies hailed from the Lone Star State, with 50 coming from North Texas. Indeed, whereas early editions of BTBF had to lean on national brands to populate the beer list, it's now Texas brews taking center stage.
Of course, that's a function of the market more than anything else. There's no getting around the fact that changes in demand have lead to changes in the portfolios of both breweries and distributors. Many breweries aren't making the same beers compared to when they first opened, and there are fewer national brands being shipped to the local market.
As for what's popular from year to year, one need only track the trails of consumer taste. And, what better place to do that than BTBF? For, while the event has proven to be a grand showcase for products offered by the local industry, it has also served as a platform from which to witness the evolution of the local craft beer scene.
So, with that in mind, this year's collection of festival favorites is presented in a slightly different format, with a bit of background on what's behind the beers you're imbibing.
At some point, rotating ingredients into a standard stout recipe became a popular thing. Stout variants help breweries keep things fresh for consumers always on the lookout for something new, and for a while Lakewood Brewing Co. cornered the market on this approach by way of The Temptress. Lately, though, other breweries have thrown their hats into the ring, with product lines being built around beers like 3 Nations Devout, 903 Sasquatch, Oak Cliff Sombre and Tupps Full Grown Man - all of which were served in one form or another at this year's BTBF.
Notable pours: 3 Nations Devout Bananas Foster, Oak Cliff Sombre - Canadian Tuxedo.
Judging by options poured at BTBF, bourbon barrels are still the vessel of choice when it comes to barrel aging beers, but there were treatments to be found on the festival floor. This year, fest-goers were able to sample beers aged in Bordeaux, clean oak, rum, tequila, white wine and (my personal favorite) brandy barrels.
Notable pours: 903 Dracarys Oak-Aged Imperial Mexican Style Stout, Hemisphere Bourbon Barrel-Aged Black Sacrament, Hop & Sting Barrel-Aged Frigid Underworld, Rabbit Hole Hatter's Revenge - Brandy Barrel-Aged Golden Strong Ale.
What's new is old again
While it almost certainly won't always be the case, it was ironic to see Peticolas Brewing Co. choose something old - a märzen - as it's first "What's New" beer. A märzen is a German beer that's been around for nearly 500 years and, believe it or not, some still seek out classic styles. Perhaps what they say is true...the more things change, the more they stay the same. Notable pour: Peticolas What's New #1: Märzen.
Held March 26-28 in Tampico, Mexico, the Aro Rojo event aims to be an international platform for recognition of beers from around the world. In addition to those sent in from the competition's home country of Mexico, beers were submitted from South and Central America, South Korea and the United States. Entries were evaluated according to the 2015 Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines.
As for North Texas, a total of five medals were awarded to local breweries, with an additional medal of note bestowed upon a beer Dallas-based BlackMan Brewing created in collaboration with Costa Rican brewer Treintaycinco - Fabrica de Cervezas. Each of these honorees is listed below, while a complete list of winners may be found by clicking here (image at link expands to a slideshow).
Following a late December bankruptcy filing aimed at restructuring its debt, Noble Rey Brewing Co. has announced it will close both of its Dallas locations on March 31.
Noble Rey debuted on the local scene nearly four years ago, opening a production facility on Farrington St. in July 2015. The company then went on the become the first area brewery to open a satellite taproom, after establishing a presence in the Dallas Farmers Market in November 2016.
More recently, Noble Rey had begun marketing its brand to European markets via a partnership formed with Neodif of France in January 2018. Through that arrangement, recipes for Vertigo Double IPA and Sex in a Canoe American Light Lager were licensed for production and distribution overseas.
According to a press release, the business is being sold to new ownership by way of the bankruptcy court, with the buyers expected to take over by mid-April.
According to founder Dominique Van Ausdall, the decision to license the brand was was made to get False Idol beers into the glasses of consumers sooner rather than later. And, while beers will be brewed at Oak Cliff for the time being, all recipe formulation will be handled by the team behind False Idol.
This approach is meant to be short term while details are being squared away on the company's facility at 7924 Maplewood Ave. in North Richland Hills. Progress is being made, though, as a TTB permit is already in hand and equipment has been secured from recently-closed Good Neighbor Brews of Wylie.
As for False Idol's first offering, the group will debut with Side Hustlin' New England IPA. The beer is set to premier this Friday, March 15, during at event at Oak Cliff's taproom in Tyler Station. From there, kegs from a full-size, 30-barrel batch will be distributed to select growler shops around the Metroplex.
Further out, False Idol also expects to have beer available on tap during LUCKapalooza V, the annual music and beer celebration hosted by LUCK. Those festivities take place on April 14 at Trinity Groves in Dallas.
“We are extremely excited to be a part of Deep Ellum’s first brand launch outside of Texas,” says Gordon Green, general manager of Capital Distributing. “Their brand portfolio performs very well and Oklahoma consumers will enjoy these great beers.”
According to a press release, beer drinkers in Oklahoma will soon be able to purchase Deep Ellum's core offerings on draft and in six-packs of 12-ounce cans. That lineup consists of Dallas Blonde, Deep Ellum IPA, Neato Bandito and Easy Peasy IPA. Those four beers will also sold together in the brewery's Mixed Tape 12-pack.
In addition, select specialty beers will be available on draft during the launch, including Local Legend, Deep Ellum Lager, Play Date Sour Blonde Ale and Dreamcrusher Double IPA.
Fawn, the brewpub's barrel-aged imperial oatmeal stout (released in January), won Double Gold in the American Style Stout category. Only five beers entered in the competition received the Double Gold designation, a prize level awarded based on a unanimous decision by the judges.
BlackMan Brewing wins additional awards in Central America
As of now, Walking Beam is serving house brews, while the Fermatorium is pouring Deep Ellum standards as it works to develop a portfolio of Fort Worth exclusives. On the culinary side, each provides on-site food service, with hand-crafted pizzas being the primary offering at both locales.
Brutal Beerworks now TABC-approved
Set to become the first brewery in North Richland Hills (NRH), Brutal Beerworks obtained its permit from the TABC on March 1. The company's location is currently under construction at 8446 Boulevard 26 in NRH, with an opening targeted for May. Once up and running, Brutal will operate under a brewpub license, which allows for the sale of beer-to-go.
Fresh off a late February label approval, Toasty Bros. released its first beer this past weekend, tapping Damage Dealer Double Stout at Denton County Brewing Co. on Friday.
Toasty Bros. is a Denton-based firm currently brewing its products under an alternating proprietorship agreement with Hop & Sting at Grapevine Craft Brewery. Brian "Toast" Tiensvold is the man behind the beer, with local pride being a guiding light for the business.
"The plan is to brew one small batch at a time and sell the beer primarily in Denton," says Tiensvold. "There may be a few exceptions, but we want to grow a local following. The idea is to become what I call a 'community-supported mom and pop brewing company.' My wife and I love this city...we live here, work here, and play here, and we want to open up a taproom here in the city someday."
Image credit: Toasty Bros.
As for Tiensvold himself, he's not new to the North Texas scene. Most recently working as a brewer at Denton County, Tiensvold also spent time at Whistle Post Brewing Co. of Pilot Point. In addition, he's an alumnus of the Home Brewers League at Barley & Board, having tapped his take on a French-style saison (called Maison Saison) last July.
For Toasty Bros.' initial offering, Tiensvold chose an imperial stout brewed with six different malt varieties. The result is a complex brew featuring layers of dark roast, coffee, and baker's chocolate that finishes dry and chewy with an abundance of black patent bitterness. In other words, it's a beer that harkens back to a time not so long ago when stouts tended to be big and bitter, rather than sweet and, perhaps both literally and figuratively, half-baked.
Next up, Tiensvold has a pair of IPAs in the works, as well as an "easy drinking ale" called Long Tacky Old Slacks (with both original and dark versions). Expected release dates for those and other beers to come can found on the company's website, located at toastybros.com.
In the meantime, another keg of Damage Dealer will be tapped on Friday, March 8, at The Bearded Monk. Billed as a meet the brewer-type event, Tiensvold will be on hand to talk all things Toasty Bros., while raising a toast to the area's newest brand of beer.