Experts’ Favorite Beers of Summer

05/07/2014 12:00 AM

05/19/2014 10:20 AM

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 it’s 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.

That’s not including a dozen or so more that have recently popped up in Dallas and surrounding areas, with more on the way.

“Even though we’re all competitors, we’re all here for the common good of craft beer,” Rahr says. “To keep it growing and expanding and on the forefront of people’s 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.

Summer’s approach means it’s 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 summer’s barbecues and beach trips, or wherever your cooler takes you.

Eric Tschetter

Owner, The Pour House

Local summer suds:

Revolver Brewing Blood & Honey

“Shocker,” 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 Buzz

Tschetter’s 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 Ale

A 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.

“It’s light and refreshing,” Tschetter says. “Great for summer.”

Where to buy: Central Market

JR Clark

Beer & Wine Manager, Central Market Fort Worth

Local summer suds:

Rahr & Sons Brewing Company Bucking Bock

Note 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 grocer’s growlers.

“It’s golden in color and it’s not harsh on the tongue like an IPA would be,” Clark says. “It goes with anything off the grill, so it’s great for summertime cooking.”

Non-local summer suds:

Saint Arnold Brewing Company Summer Pils

“It’s very easy to drink,” Clark says of Houston-based Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s German-style Pilsner that’s available April through August. “It’s bright, crisp and clean. It’s a very traditional Pilsner, so the bubbles are tiny and it’s 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 Café

Local summer suds:

Community Beer Company Belgian Witbier

Brewed 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. “It’s light and refreshing and has mild citrus flavors.”

Non-local summer suds:

Dogfish Head Festina Peche

A 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 you’re cooking.”

Stone Brewing Co. Enjoy By IPA

Brewed 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.

“It’s 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 Liquor

Michael Vallandingham

General Manager, The Ginger Man Southlake

Local summer suds:

Rahr & Sons Brewing Company Summertime Wheat

The 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 IPA

This is Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s 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 it’s available in cans, which makes it perfect for camping or outdoor concerts.”

Martin House Brewing Company Daybreak

Vallandingham calls Martin House’s now locally famous four-grain number, Daybreak, made with honey and milk sugar, a sweet ‘breakfast’ beer he enjoys anytime he’s outside.

Non-local summer suds:

Real Ale Brewing Company

4-Squared

“This is a slightly stronger version of Real Ale’s popular blonde ale, Fireman’s #4,” Vallandingham says of the Blanco brewery’s hoppy, “burly” blonde. “With a stronger hop finish and availability in cans, it’s a perfect river-trip companion.”

Where to buy: Central Market

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