When we heard that the former Chimera Brewing was changing hands, we wondered if it would really be new. Well, the answer is − yes and no.
New owners are Magnolia magnates, Will Churchill and sister Corrie Watson. They are the duo behind Kent & Co. Wines and the event space − The Space, as well as landlords to Melt Ice Creams and Heim BBQ, who received a big leg up from Churchill and Watson as they moved from food truck toward their first brick and mortar (a second location is opening soon in River District).
The rebranding of Chimera Brewing to Fort Brewery & Pizza, which officially opened on June 6, is in full swing. You’ll even notice a case filled with “merch” located near the front, with t-shirts, koozballs (football shaped koozies imprinted with the Fort Brewery logo) and growlers to take home some of your favorite beer.
A lot has changed. But, Carlo Galotto, who founded the former Zio Carlo restaurant and Chimera Brewing Co., in the same space, stays on as kitchen manager. And, while the menu has been streamlined, Carlo’s Northern Italian pizzas are still front and center.
The building, a former laundromat and dry cleaners, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. You might say it has “good bones” with high ceilings, tall windows and a realistic, rather than manufactured, patina.
Outside, the name change is apparent. The front door has new signage and the side entrance, near the patio and parking, has been boldly enhanced with the name of Fort Brewery on a purple background. You can’t miss it!
The patio has been updated and expanded with picnic table seating. Classic games have been added to the patio like giant Connect Four, Tiki Toss and Jenga. The management even expects to host live music on occasion, but no schedule has been published yet.
The interior has been decluttered and polished with freshly painted walls, alongside exposed brick, highlighting the historic features. A sliding garage door is still in place, and should the weather cooperate, it opens onto the patio.
There are large party/family size tables, scattered four and six tops, and bar seating. Four flat screen televisions have been installed throughout.
The double dart board still resides near the entrance, but the well-worn darts need an update, to enjoy it. I was promised that will be remedied soon. A few leather sofas add additional seating. All the elements are in place to kick back and stay a while.
The focus is squarely on pizzas and beer. Churchill and Watson also parlayed their relationships with Heim BBQ and Melt Ice Creams to add some local flavor to the new Fort Brewing & Pizza menu. So, don’t be surprised if pizza shows up on the Kent & Co. Wine menu soon, just down Magnolia. It could happen.
Six new pizzas have been added to the mix along with a “brew your own” option. But, you will also find a few salads like the Tuscan with mixed greens, zucchini, goat cheese and strawberries tossed in a raspberry vinaigrette, as well as a few sandwiches like the hot turkey with crispy bacon, sweet red onions, cherry tomatoes, avocado, arugula and melted mozzarella, served on a homemade bun with basil mayo.
With a new, larger pizza oven installed, service times have been improved. We tried two pizzas. The BBQ chicken pizza ($8 personal, $16 full – with 8 slices), is topped with shredded mozzarella, sliced red onions, grilled chicken and Heim’s signature BBQ sauce. Its bland, nearly monochromatic appearance, was punctuated by that succulent sauce. There is another called C J’s H-bomb, which adds Heim’s chopped beef and black peppered sausage.
The other pie was the prosciutto, olive and mushroom ($10 personal, $18). It was the prettier of the two with more color and thinly folded slices of prosciutto ham laid over the top after cooking, so the ham retained its appealing luster. The crust is thin and tender, if not slightly undercooked, but flavorful. The house-made pizza sauce was bright and acidic.
Most of the appetizer offerings a carb-loaded, from house made pretzels and calzones to garlic knots. We enjoyed the Italian Caprese salad ($11 with added prosciutto). Layers of freshly sliced tomatoes and delicate slices of fresh mozzarella are drizzled with a balsamic reduction and topped with a few fresh basil leaves for that delicious herbal note that brings a caprese salad to life.
Where the former Chimera was, at times, a confusingly eclectic collection of beers, the new Fort Brewery plans to offer a more classic stable of brews, hoping to hit the sweet spot, before getting tricky with specialty or crafty beers. Fort Brewery & Pizza has tapped Jeremy Whitehead to serve as master brewer.
On the night we visited they were sold out of half of the new line-up, leaving us only three Fort Brewery beers to sample. It was too hot outside to stomach an oatmeal stout, Moonrider. I couldn’t even convince myself to take one for the team, and take it out for a spin. But, I did enjoy the other two on hand.
Border Shift is described as a hoppy lager. It has a low ABV (5.5%) and is a successful marriage of a smooth lager with the hoppy bite of an IPA. It was the best of both worlds, a very refreshing and drinkable beer. Likewise, the 1849 is a solid choice. This Irish Red has an enticing hue and a clean, biscuity flavor profile.
They also had a couple of Rahr beers on tap, along with two from Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co. of Plano, a Celis witbier and an Epic Brainless Raspberry Nitro. The three other beers from Fort Brewing’s standard line-up include, Grey Eagle − a hefeweizen, Ocho − an India Pale Ale, and Clara − a kolsch style beer.
Fort Brewing & Pizza
1001 W Magnolia Ave., 817. 923.8000, www.fortbrewery.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10pa.m. Sunday.