Arlington Citizen-Journal

New Arlington craft beer venture opens to cheers all around

Cesar Hernandez draws beers Saturday for a crowd of thirsty guests during Legal Draft Beer Co.’s grand opening in downtown Arlington in 2016.
Cesar Hernandez draws beers Saturday for a crowd of thirsty guests during Legal Draft Beer Co.’s grand opening in downtown Arlington in 2016. Special to the Star-Telegram

Ashley Gill found a new place to hang with her rowdy friends.

Gill — aka Gillotine Grace, of the Dallas Derby Devils — said that she and fellow roller derby athletes “hop around a lot to different breweries” and “drink a lot of beer.”

The Devils had that in common with about 1,500 people who descended Saturday on Legal Draft Beer Co. for the craft brewery’s six-hour grand opening. Folks were elbow to belly button in the tap room, and crowds spilled over into the brewing room and onto the front porch, where three live bands took turns shattering eardrums. In the process, the brewery raised a keg full of money for the Arlington Police Foundation by donating a portion of each admission.

“We gotta total that up tomorrow,” said Greg McCarthy, who with major partner Curt Taylor, owns Legal Draft. “It looks like $1,500 or so.”

Revelers paid from $10 to $25 to sample the five fermented nectars that have launched what a team of investors/friends hope will become a beer legacy and a downtown Arlington destination.

“We floated 25 kegs,” McCarthy said.

That’s a lot of beer.

Jim Ross, an Arlington Police Foundation board member, testified for Accused Amber. The brewery’s traditional Vienna lager, Accused Amber prevailed, in number of glasses guzzled, over Hung Jury Hefeweizen — a wheat beer made in traditional German fashion — and Presumed Innocent IPA.

“This is my first and only one today,” said Ross, a former police officer. “This [tap room] is something downtown Arlington has needed for a long time. I’ll be a regular here.”

The most popular brew Saturday was Legal Blonde, a classic Munich lager, McCarthy said. Chief Justice Stout performed as well as he expected, attracting only those jurors whose decisions are influenced by roasted malts and richer taste.

McCarthy is a 30-year veteran attorney and the source of the courtroom-influenced theme behind the names of the company and its products.

The investment group spent around $200,000 converting a 16,000-square-foot facility at 500 E. Division St. that once was the Luke Pontiac/Honda service department, McCarthy said. They also dropped about $1 million on stainless steel equipment that includes 10 1,500-gallon (50 barrels) fermentation tanks and a pair of 1,500-gallon clarifying tanks.

“We’ll make about 4,000 barrels in about six months’ time, about 175 barrels a week,” McCarthy said. “Next year we plan to make about 15,000 barrels.”

But state-of-the-art equipment alone doesn’t make good beer. McCarthy and friends brought in Henryk Orlik, a master brewer whose 44 years of experience began in his native Germany. When he started making beer in America 22 years ago, Orlik said, there were about 400 craft breweries. Today, he said there are more than 4,000, and brew pubs like Legal Draft have come into their own.

“Ten years ago, such breweries were struggling,” said Orlik, one of eight Legal Draft employees. “Now, Americans look for unique craft beers and are willing to pay for them.”

Legal Draft’s blond and amber lagers already are sold in cans in several outlets. The IPA and stout will join them in the next month or so. The Hefeweizen will only be on tap for a while, and a dozen or so restaurants are already pulling drafts of all five beers. The full line also is available in kegs. Check for locations.

The tap room also serves Moot Beer, a root beer whose secret formula Orlik brought with him, as well as hard ginger ale, hard apple cider and hard root beer.

For the near future, a biergarten is under construction at Legal Draft, McCarthy said. But the tap room is virtually ready to host regular guests.

“Around the first of August we’ll go to Thursday and Friday 3 to 7 p.m. operations in the tap room,” he said. “It will be open Saturday and Sunday noon to six.”

Legal Draft will slake your thirst, but your hunger is on you, McCarthy said.

“You can bring in food, or call for a pizza, and, occasionally, we’ll have food trucks in the parking lot,” he said.