Almost 10 years ago, Wisconsin native and former Texas Christian University swimmer Fritz Rahr opened Rahr & Sons Brewing Company in Fort Worth.He may not have thought of himself as a beer pioneer, but its easy to award him that distinction now.A decade ago, North Texas was still very much a Miller-Coors environment, he says, and selling craft beer was difficult.But around 2009, beer drinkers taste buds seem to suddenly evolve.Craft beer really came on the scene, Rahr says. It was like somebody flipped a switch and boom there it was.Now Rahr & Sons, whose production levels have grown from 500 barrels in 2004 to an anticipated total of 24,000 this year, is recognized as the boss brewer among a fast-growing group of local craft breweries, including up-and-comers such as Martin House Brewing Company, Panther Island Brewing, Shannon Brewing Company in Keller, Grapevine Craft Brewery and Revolver Brewing in Granbury.Thats not including a dozen or so more that have recently popped up in Dallas and surrounding areas, with more on the way.Even though were all competitors, were all here for the common good of craft beer, Rahr says. To keep it growing and expanding and on the forefront of peoples mind when they think beer.North Texas is not alone in the craft brew movement. According to the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association which defines a craft brewer as small (producing less than 6 million barrels a year), independent and traditional growth of the craft brewing industry in 2013 was up 18 percent by volume and 20 percent by dollars from the year prior. Craft brewers sold 15.6 million barrels in 2013 compared with 13.2 million in 2012. More than 2,800 total breweries operated in 2013, the highest total since the 1870s. Even more, restaurants across the board are responding to consumer demand by adding more taps, with some like Brewed offering growler programs that allow customers to walk out with jugs of their favorites. A lot of restaurants that traditionally had three or four taps have reconfigured their bar area to support 12 to 15 taps, Rahr says. Summers approach means its time to switch to sips that are refreshing, with easy drinkability and maybe a citrusy note or two. Four local beer experts, whose jobs entail choosing good brews, offer their picks for summer suds, both those made locally and non-locally. (The task was like choosing a favorite child, for some). Stock up now for this summers barbecues and beach trips, or wherever your cooler takes you. Eric Tschetter Owner, The Pour House Local summer suds: Revolver Brewing Blood & HoneyShocker, Tschetter says. There are a ton of great local beers and I love trying them all, but Blood & Honey is just a great go-to beer.Tschetter is not alone in his selection. Blood & Honey, finished with blood orange zest and local Fall Creek Farms honey, has put the Granbury brewery on the craft beer map for its refreshing blend of spices and hint of sweetness. Four Corners Brewing Co. Local BuzzTschetters also digging Local Buzz, a honey-rye golden ale infused with locally-sourced honey from Dallas Four Corners Brewing Co. The whole top comes off when you pop the can, and it is like you are drinking out of a cup, he says. Very cool and innovative.Non-local summer suds: Brooklyn Brewery Summer AleA modern rendition of the light dinner ales brewed in England from the 1800s to the 1940s, this golden beer boasts crisp bitterness with citrus and floral aromas. Its light and refreshing, Tschetter says. Great for summer. Where to buy: Central Market JR Clark Beer & Wine Manager, Central Market Fort WorthLocal summer suds: Rahr & Sons Brewing Company Bucking BockNote that this traditional German spring bock is available in draft only, but we found it on tap at Central Market in Fort Worth, where we took it home in one of the grocers growlers.Its golden in color and its not harsh on the tongue like an IPA would be, Clark says. It goes with anything off the grill, so its great for summertime cooking. Non-local summer suds: Saint Arnold Brewing Company Summer PilsIts very easy to drink, Clark says of Houston-based Saint Arnold Brewing Companys German-style Pilsner thats available April through August. Its bright, crisp and clean. Its a very traditional Pilsner, so the bubbles are tiny and its very effervescent. It just goes down really, really clean. Where to buy: Central Market (Bucking Bock available at Fort Worth store only.) Keith Schlabs Managing Partner/Beer Enthusiast, The Flying Saucer/Bird CaféLocal summer suds: Community Beer Company Belgian WitbierBrewed using unmalted wheat, which leads to its cloudy appearance, this brew offers a high level of carbonation and hints of orange peel and spice. That style is just about perfect for hot summer days, Schlabs says. Its light and refreshing and has mild citrus flavors. Non-local summer suds: Dogfish Head Festina PecheA mild Berliner Weisse, which is a tart, acidic wheat beer with almost no hop bitterness, the Festina Peche can take the edge off of a long day and refresh the body at the same time, Schlabs says. It is delicate and quite drinkable and would pair with just about anything youre cooking. Stone Brewing Co. Enjoy By IPABrewed in California specifically not to last, Stone Enjoy By IPA comes with an enjoy by date (currently 5.16.14) printed boldly on the label, meaning imbibers have only so much time to consume it for premium flavor. Its well-made, fresh and has some great refreshing qualities snappy hops, crisp carbonation, big earthy hop aroma and enough strength that one will do, Schlabs says. Where to buy: Kings LiquorMichael Vallandingham General Manager, The Ginger Man SouthlakeLocal summer suds: Rahr & Sons Brewing Company Summertime WheatThe 2014 version of this lightly hopped, unfiltered ale, noted for its banana and clovelike notes, was just released May 1. A classic, Vallangdinham says. Summer is wheat beer season and this one is great. Deep Ellum Brewing Compay IPAThis is Deep Ellum Brewing Companys flagship brew a bitter ale made with American hops that is highly aromatic with citrus, pine and floral notes. This beer is just fantastic and its available in cans, which makes it perfect for camping or outdoor concerts. Martin House Brewing Company DaybreakVallandingham calls Martin Houses now locally famous four-grain number, Daybreak, made with honey and milk sugar, a sweet breakfast beer he enjoys anytime hes outside. Non-local summer suds: Real Ale Brewing Company 4-SquaredThis is a slightly stronger version of Real Ales popular blonde ale, Firemans #4, Vallandingham says of the Blanco brewerys hoppy, burly blonde. With a stronger hop finish and availability in cans, its a perfect river-trip companion. Where to buy: Central Market
Band mates-turned-brewing buddies Michael Harper and Ryan McWhorter have partnered to open Panther Island Brewing, Fort Worths latest addition to the citys growing brewery scene.
This one is on the north side of downtown (Rahr & Sons is just south and Martin House Brewing Company is a stones throw east), in a long-vacant 7,500-square-foot building at 501 N. Main St., south of the Trinity River Vision Authoritys Panther Island Pavilion. While the brewery is not yet open to the public, Harper and McWhorter, both former home brewers, are hard at work inside.
I started with a Mr. Beer kit. You know, the kind you get from Wal-Mart, says McWhorter. I worked my way up and thought, Lets do this for a living.
Having perfected their product by brewing recipes over and over again (previously under the name Wahoo) for more than two years in a 1,200-square-foot space in Haltom City, McWhorters and Harpers persistence paid off.
The duo won best brewery at the inaugural Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival Burgers, Brews & Blues event for Allergeez, their American wheat ale brewed with local Texas honey, chamomile flowers and rosehips.
Allergeez is our baby, Harper says. We think thats going to be our huge seller. So far, thats the one thats received the most positive response. Were really happy with it.
Look for Allergeez to hit area bar and restaurant taps this summer and later, a strawberry blonde ale modeled after strawberry shortcake made with biscuit malt. The duo is also brewing beer exclusively for the Trinity River Authoritys new weekly Sunday Funday summer event series at Panther Island Pavilion, set to take place every Sunday starting June 8 from 1 to 6 p.m., featuring tubing, food trucks, live music and water sports.
The people of Fort Worth have been overwhelmingly kind, says Harper. The response has been really great. Were ready to be here for the long haul.
McWhorter adds that while the guys are swamped preparing their expansive venue for taproom hours and Saturday tours, to be dubbed as parties, he welcomes any brew enthusiast to drop in.
Were very personable people, he says. We like to hang out and have a good time. If you ever drive by here and the big doors open, come on in.