Texas Brews News
By: TX Brews | 05/09/2012Fort Worth resident Tony Drewry is one of Texas’ preeminent beer advocates and one of the busiest people we know. Formerly Rahr & Sons’ all-over-Texas Beer Pedaler, Tony is a master plumber, banjo player/ vocalist for bluegrass/hillbilly/hip-hop/whatever-the-hell-they-want-to-be band Fish Fry Bingo and bicycle advocate. Somehow he fits evangelizing about the joys of Texas craft beer into his busy schedule and this is obviously something we can get behind. This is his account of the weekend of April 27-29.
By Tony Drewry
Texas Craft Beer Festival
On Friday afternoon, I took a short drive down to Waco for the Dancing Bear Pub’s Texas Craft Beer Festival. If you have not been to the Dancing Bear, you are missing out on the best reason to stop in Waco. Paxton Dove and his merry band of beer ninjas are at your service and serving fine beers in the heart of this Southern Baptist stronghold.
The Texas Craft Beer Festival is a celebration of some of the best and often rarest brews you can find in our great state and features hourly tappings, a silent auction for growlers of rare beers, great live music and all the best beer-soaked conversation a Texan could want.
Upon arrival, the beer was already flowing and the crowd was in full force. Deep Ellum Brewing’s Farmhouse Wit had just been tapped and I was promptly served my very first taste of this delicious new seasonal. Also on tap were (512) Whiskey Barrel Double Pecan Porter, Rahr & Sons unfiltered Bucking Bock on cask, Adelbert’s dry-hopped Naked Nun, Independence Lupulust, Jester King Beer Geek Rodeo, Live Oak Schwarzbier gravity keg and Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 10. Dang!
As the night went on, the kegs got lighter and the people got louder and a great time was had by all. Several of us planned on heading to Texas Beer Fest in Houston the next day, so we took off for a night cap at an undisclosed location. Friday’s story doesn’t end there, but that’s where I’m going to end it.
Texas Beer Fest
Early the next morning (very early, I might add), we all awoke and hit the road for Houston. We arrived in Houston on time for setup and pulled up to Discovery Green in downtown. We ran into Texas Beer Fest founder Clif Wigington at the front gate. He was all smiles but expectedly anxious. Clif and his festival partner Jake Lewis are outstanding advocates for craft beer and well respected in the Texas craft beer community for their work with the Texas Beer Fest.
When the festival opened at noon, I ran into Jay and Cathy Rascoe from Houston/Dallas Beer Week, Monsters of Beer, Beer Camp and Live It Big. Jay (also known as @gunsandtacos on Twitter) claimed to have the very first beer poured at the fest that day in his hand: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. Starting the day with a barleywine is a bold choice and Jay is a bold man. Veterans of the Houston and Texas beer scenes, Jay and Cathy know a good thing when they see one and were geared up to try as many of the great beers on hand that they could. Jay and Cathy, just like Clif and Jake, are people with day jobs who take on the massive responsibility of organizing beer festivals because of their belief in craft beer. These folks deserve thanks, so please let them know that you appreciate their work if you ever cross their paths.
As the day went on I ran into several folks I know and kept hearing the same story again and again. This festival was awesome and everybody knew it. The venue was large and well laid out, the lines were not too long, there was plenty of beer and food to be had and there were a great variety of choices including many Texas breweries. I ran into Clif and Jake standing in the same place as before. However, this time they were much more laid back and enjoying the success of all of their hard work. I love it when a plan comes together.
The festival wound down around 5 and people made their way to the exits. When a festival is done right, the end of it makes the success evident as there is a palatable air of positivity. Texas drinkers had learned something, drank great beers and met new friends. Craft beer brings people together and it is obvious when you look at the Texas craft beer community and even the brewers. I left proud to be in attendance at such a well-run, craft beer-centric festival put on by folks who really get it. These two festivals, along with the recent Big Texas Beer Fest in Dallas, show us that Texas is well on its way in the craft beer revolution!
Everyone listening to the right folks during festival descended upon Liberty Station on Washington Avenue for the unofficial after party. Karbach, Deep Ellum, Independence, Rahr & Sons and other Texas breweries were well represented alongside Victory, Stone, Left Hand and others. Giant Jenga, shirt swapping, arm wrestling and more were all part of everything that an after party should be. Again, that’s not where the story ends, but for the sake of all involved, that’s where I’ll end it.
Brunch and Recovery
The next day, I woke up late and decided to hit brunch on my way out to Austin. I stopped at the BRC Gastropub for some of the best grub in town and to see what new beers they had on tap. I sampled two beers two new Houston beers from Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.: the 1836 Copper Ale and the highly interesting Chai Porter.
After brunch, I had no choice but to stop by the Hay Merchant. They are now pouring 70 taps and five full-time cask engines of arguably the most diverse and badass variety of beers in Texas. The featured tapping of the day was a cask-conditioned Jester King Boxer’s Revenge and naturally, I had no choice but to have one. I spent a few minutes with Kevin Floyd, one of the proprietors and another champion of the Houston craft beer community. Texas beers always have a very prominent representation on a wall that is so vast and fine tuned. It almost brought a tear to my eye, but I’m not really the crying type.
Epic Bottle Share
With a full belly, and just enough time in between samples to drive safely, I hit the road again to head to Austin. My plan was to have dinner with friends from Thirsty Planet, Hops & Grain and Independence, then head home on Monday morning. What I ended up attending by pure luck was one of the most incredible bottle swaps I have ever attended.
Brewers, owners and reps from Jester King, Thirsty Planet, Independence, Black Star Co-op and Austin Beerworks came together with owners of drink.well., Barley Swine and others at the Hops & Grain brewery at the end of E 6th with a collection of bottles that are hard to match. I saw something I never even knew existed: a six-liter bottle of Russian River Damnation. There was a bottle of Thomas Hardy Ale from 1987 along with barleywines, oak-aged ales and sours from all corners of the U.S., bottles from breweries I’ve only heard of and a few that I haven’t. If it weren’t for the company of seasoned professionals, things could have gotten out of hand. Crunk, even.
Everything was fine, and then someone brought out the BB gun. Empty Hops & Grain Alteration cans were shot and so were a few asses. And then full cans on the hood of a moving car. And someone (no telling who) might have shotgunned a can pierced by a BB and might have actually swallowed the BB. BB guns aside, it was one more great day enjoying the camaraderie of the growing legions of the Texas craft beer movement. These days are happening a lot more frequently lately.
I called it a somewhat early night and stopped in at the Draught House Pub for a few minutes to check in on brewer Josh Wilson. Draught House has one of the best hop gardens in Texas and recent rains have been very good to them as the vines are full, green and about 15-feet tall. Not bad for Texas, but we’ll see how the inevitable 1,000-degree temperatures this summer affect them.
My last stop before heading home was to see my good friends at Austin Beerworks. Along with Hops & Grain, they are one of my favorite new Texas breweries. Both have won well-respected awards in their first year of brewing as Austin Beerworks won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011 for Peacemaker Extra Pale Ale while Hops & Grain just won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup for what I think is the best Altbier in Texas: Alteration.
I spend a lot of time roaming the state of Texas and attend many beer events, but this weekend was one of the greatest I have ever experienced. Even though I didn’t want it to end, I’m pretty sure that back ache was my liver telling me to take a nap and avoid another beer.
We are experiencing the birth of a movement. We are one of the largest beer markets in the United States and we are Texas, dammit. Don’t tell us what to do! We want craft beer. We want local beer. We want good beer! And we are going to have it. Keep on fighting the good fight and spreading the word about all the good things you try. Word of mouth is one of the most effective tools in this campaign and you make a difference. Revolution, friends!
Follow Tony on Twitter @BeerPedaler
Photo credit: Monica Maddux