VOTE! Click here to vote for your favorites in Round 2. Deadline is noon on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
As delightful as it can be drinking beer in the middle of the day and getting paid to do it, we have encountered a few challenges on our brew-fueled escapades.
Specifically, it’s not always easy to find all the locally made craft beers you want in the same location. For example, some, like Martin House’s River House, are available only on draft, while others, like Armadillo’s Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, can be found in cans mostly in liquor and grocery stores. So in Round 1, we had to do quite a bit of legwork and strategic planning (i.e., sneaking a beer or two into a bar in our backpack to do side-by-side comparisons).
In Round 2, we decided to start out at the Pour House in Fort Worth, which recently unveiled an impressive 75-beer tap wall and a new look. And we struck gold. The popular sports bar has become a craft beer drinker’s paradise — and nearly a one-stop shop for our beer bracket.
We convened our weekly staff meeting there, and were happy to find almost all of the local craft beers we needed to try. Even better, PH’s happy hour special made any beer on the tap wall $4 between 4 and 7 p.m. (some were $3), so we saved a little cash as we sipped our way toward the Elite Eight.
As for the results, the No. 1 seeds continued to flex their muscle in all four regions: Dark and Malty, Hops, Specialty, and Easy Drinking. Only a couple of Cinderellas — No. 6 seed Lakewood’s Hop Trapp and No. 7 seed Armadillo’s Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale — are threatening to crash the party for the favorites. (Incidentally, Lakewood, the Garland brewery founded by Belgium native Wim Bens, is the only brewery with two of its beers left in the Final 8.)
But there’s still a long way to go. Here, we offer our judges’ picks for Round 2. And if you’re following along each week, please note that we will take a break from the beer tastings during Thanksgiving to gorge ourselves on turkey. That means the Final Four beers — champions of each region — will be revealed in the Dec. 6 issue of DFW.com. Stay tuned, and bottoms up! (For a breakdown of the Readers’ Bracket, click here, or go straight to the voting bracket.)
Dark and Malty
(1) Lakewood The Temptress vs. (5) Martin House There Will Be Stout
The Temptress is exactly that: a beer you just can’t stop drinking after your first sip. It’s not often that a stout is so compulsively drinkable, but this sweet, dark milk stout that packs a hefty kick (9.1 percent alcohol by volume) is just such a brew. Martin House’s pretzel stout, also known as There Will Be Stout, is no slouch either, with its pitch-dark color, salty/tangy finish and likewise heavyweight ABV (6.5 percent). But in our head-to-head tasting, we found The Temptress to be more consistently satisfying, as its sweet aftertaste lingered more pleasantly than There Will Be Stout’s. The Temptress lives to seduce another round. Winner: Lakewood Temptress
(2) Rahr Ugly Pug vs. (3) Four Corners Block Party Porter
This was an intriguing matchup between two beers on the lighter side of dark — especially when compared with the big stouts battling it out on the other half of this region. Both went down smooth. But Four Corners’ porter asserts itself with dark brown color and a chocolate, coffee taste that delivers hints of cola. It’s unapologetically sweet. Ugly Pug is more subtle, with a toasted malt, toffee and slight coffee flavor that’s not bitter or overly sweet. While we liked both, the Pug, which pours opaque black with a thick tan head, was simply more balanced. Winner: Rahr Ugly Pug
(1) Peticolas Velvet Hammer vs. (5) Rahr Stormcloud
In the bracket format, every now and then, you catch a frontrunner having an off day. That really applied during our DFW.com Burger Battles, but it even applies to North Texas craft beer. Our first-round tries of the Peticolas Velvet Hammer had us raving about it the way restaurant personnel and bartenders had been raving about it to us. But when we did a head-to-head tasting of it and Rahr’s Stormcloud at Pour House recently, we found the Velvet Hammer lacking that slight sweetness that cuts its bitter aftertaste. Here’s the thing, though: Stormcloud had an even more bitter aftertaste, and an unshakable orange-peel finish. So this was closer than expected, but the Hammer wins by a nail. Winner: Velvet Hammer
(6) Lakewood Hop Trapp vs. (7) Revolver High Brass Ale
The High Brass, an American blonde ale, is a perfectly good beer. We can imagine it going down easily when we’re hot or thirsty. In fact, just imagining it is making us thirsty. But the Hop Trapp, a Trappist-style ale, has that hint of spiciness that we like, giving it a nice finish to go with its slight fruitiness. Both are fairly mild compared with some of the other beers in the Hops bracket; the High Brass could even fit into the Easy Drinking category. But for all the ease of both, we think the Hop Trapp has just a little bit more character. Winner: Lakewood Hop Trapp
(1) Revolver Blood and Honey vs. (4) Community Trinity Tripel
Call it a tale of two beers. Revolver’s Blood and Honey, packaged in bottles or available on draft, clashing with Community’s elegantly bottled Trinity Tripel (the beer arrives sealed with wax in a 750-milliliter bomber bottle). Still, it’s the beer that matters, and this was a fierce fight, as each packs a fruity aroma. But where the pale wheat ale Blood and Honey finishes smooth, there’s a slight peppery kick at the end of the Belgian-style ale Trinity Tripel that disrupts the pleasant peach and banana afterglow. It took multiple tastes to determine which beer wielded fruit as a weapon best, but Blood and Honey edged out the competition yet again. Winner: Revolver Blood and Honey
(6) Martin House River House vs. (7) Armadillo Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale
These two surprising saisons defeated higher-ranked competitors in Round 1, and the upset trend continues here. River House, made at the fast-growing Martin House brewery in Fort Worth, is a refreshing and clean ale with citrusy overtones and a slight bite to it. At 5 percent ABV, you could sip it all day long. (We almost did!) But Armadillio’s Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale, “representin’ Denton,” is the little beer that could, delivering its distinct flavors of grapefruit and coriander to go along with a sunny and undeniably drinkable personality. Winner: Armadillo Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale
(1) Martin House Day Break vs. (4) Lakewood Rock Ryder
One is billed as a “breakfast brew” on its can, while the other is an ideal late-afternoon refreshment. The difference between Day Break and Rock Ryder wasn’t exactly night and day — the former is an ale brewed with honey and milk sugar, and the latter is an American rye wheat beer with a slight, zesty bite — but there wasn’t much daylight between the two. Each is a smooth, satisfying sip, but pitted against each other, the Rock Ryder’s crisp finish couldn’t compete with Day Break’s pleasing, vaguely oaty and sweet aftertaste. The sun shines upon Martin House, which advances to the next round. Winner: Martin House Day Break
(2) Community Public Ale vs. (6) Peticolas Golden Opportunity
This was a showdown between two of Dallas’ most inventive breweries. Peticolas’ Golden Opportunity, a light and airy concoction that we found on tap at Fort Worth’s Rodeo Goat, is the definition of an “easy drinking” beer. Straw-colored and bready, Golden Opportunity is clean and crisp with just a hint of maltiness and hops. Community’s English-style ale, on the other hand, pours on the flavor with a rich, deep maltiness and a beautiful blend of hops and spice. Both were among our favorite craft brews in this region, but the Public Ale delivers a more complex, flavorful and satisfying drinking experience. Winner: Community Public Ale