by Brian Wall
This past was an interesting one for the craft brew scene in Dallas-Ft. Worth and surrounding areas. A few breweries opened and graced us with an ever widening expanse of offerings, every brewery celebrated a birthday and continued to grace us with the beers we love, a few breweries took home some hardware from competitions and beer festivals seem to have increased in popularity. This alone would be impressive for an area but add the ongoing beer dinners, North Texas Beer Week and the incoming craft beers and a beer lover can safely enjoy a plethora of styles that commercial breweries lack from their tasteless and soulless swill.
Whether you are a novice or an experienced connoisseur, the following is some of the best that the area has to offer and if you haven’t had any chance to experience them yet, make 2014 the year of beer for you.
Best Local Beer: (tie) Lion’s Share, Numb Comfort, STRIpa
This is difficult to really rate. There are so many styles that our local breweries produce and every one can be slightly better depending on the way, location and situation it is served. While I still maintain that the best way to try the beers is at their point of origin, it may not be possible to do so if they are offered at a tour. My top three, in no particular order, is Lakewood’s Lion Share, Deep Ellum’s Numb Comfort and Firewheel’s STRIpa.
Best Brewery Tour: Undecided.
Another difficult choice here. Each has a special feel, social atmosphere and attitude that can is so individualistic that certain parts of each would make a “Super Brewery” tour that would be unrivalled by any other. The laid back, uncrowded ease of Lakewood, selection of Deep Ellum and friendliness of Rahr would indeed put them up towards the top. If you enjoy a different glass each visit, Rahr might be your best option. If you dislike crowds, check out Firewheel. If you want a great are to hang after the tour, Depp Ellum’s are has great music venues and restaurants.
Best Beer Fest: Labor of Love
This one is actually quite easy. While Untapped, Big Texas Beer Fest and North Texas Beer Fest all grant fun and plenty of samples, I would have to say the Labor of Love home brew competition at Deep Ellum is by far the best. This is akin to seeing the rookie pitcher before he makes fifteen million a year. The beer offerings were intense and the ability to talk to the brewers adds a nice learning experience on top of the great tastes.
Best Place to Find Beers: (tie) Lone Star Beverages, Las Colinas Beverages
While there are plenty of larger chain stores out there they lack a couple things. The first that comes to mind is the personal touch. Talking beer and getting opinions about what to try next can easily make a person who was hesitant because “that beer didn’t seem interesting” into the “best beer I have ever drank” consumer. Smaller places also seem to offer tastings, either scheduled or impromptu, to aid in the selection. If you also frequent the establishment, it might be easier to have a special beer put on the side or ordered for you. In this my top selections for craft beer stores would be Lone Star Beverages in Carrollton and Las Colinas Beverages in Irving. The owners of both stores are friendly, helpful and add a great personal touch when shopping there. The beer selections are definitely something to not only check out but continue to go to.
Best Place to Drink: Craft and Growler
Everybody has their own favorite watering hole. Dive bar, gastro-pub, brew-pub; it doesn’t really matter where you’ve been enjoying the beer because most enjoy a place of convenience that’s close to home. Truly though, if you have not experienced Craft and Growler, add this to your ever growing list of visits. Don’t like sitting at a bar? Fill up a growler and you can take the beer with you. An added plus is that most of their beers are not bottled or canned.
2013 was a great year for the craft beer scene in the metro. While not every beer, venue, fest and brewery was discussed for its fine points, they all offer great things. Breweries have been popping up with enough force to put North Texas on the major beer map for the rest of the country. Beer fests will continue to grow and beer varieties will be swing into popularity and out like clothing or haircuts. 2014, we look forward to what will be offered and we will relish every minute of it!