Crafting the Best Brew

The Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is a melting pot of cultures, fashion, flavors and entertainment destinations, and it has become a prominent destination for brewery hopping and visiting wineries. The craft beer movement has taken over North Texas and is only gaining momentum as the industry innovates. Adding to the excitement of this popular hobby are techniques that allow you to home-brew your own beer, as well as the large number of local restaurants, pubs and specialty shops that offer pairings, tools and spirits of all sorts!

With spring upon us, it is time to get out and enjoy the weather at some of our local hang out spots! In the brewery and winery world, with every season change comes the opportunity to experiment with different brews and participate in exciting events sponsored by local companies that specialize in the art of beer and wine production. Many of these destinations offer more in the form of entertainment than just sampling new drinks! Whether it is live music, community events, outdoor games or local art, these fun destinations offer it all, oftentimes, for family members of all ages.

Hop Around Town

A fun atmosphere paired with local beer has long been the catalyst of nights spent gathered with friends. Sometimes, you just want a cold brew after a long workweek to celebrate an accomplishment or to simply revel in the company of others while appreciating a local craft. Over the past decade, craft beer has quickly become a popular beverage choice and North Texans have a vast variety of the best craft beer in the state to choose from. Many local beer and wine connoisseurs want to spread their wings when it comes to trying new beer flavors. When touring these facilities, it is not so much about having a good drink as it is about learning the art and talent behind the process, indulging in a variety of unique flavors and pairing beverages with the perfect foods. Learning the science behind the types of flavors represented is key to maximizing your experience.

With a brewing history that dates back to the 1800s, McKinney’s Franconia Brewing Company combines local flair with its German heritage and history as it brews some of the most authentic Bavarian beers available. Born and raised in Germany, Franconia’s fifth generation brew master, David Wehrmann, studied beer science in Munich, and his goal was to bring a fresh take on German beer to North Texas, while also bringing German culture to the area’s industry. He attributes the growing popularity of local breweries to the demand for different flavors in beer. “People in North Texas want something else, rather than their regular domestics. They are open to trying new flavors and adventuring out. As one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S., we in the brewing business have a lot of ground to cover. The communities in North Texas are fun and have a great vibe, which I think is unique and fits the mentality of us brewers very well,” Mr. Wehrmann says. Fans of authentic German beer can tour his brewery every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The brewery participates in about 25 different events and festivals in September and October alone, while remaining a staple at McKinney’s own Oktoberfest.

TUPPS Brewery, which also calls McKinney home, boasts a 15,000-square-foot brewery adjoined to McKinney’s historic cotton mill. TUPPS’ adventure started with a passion for beer that was defined and refined from six years of brewing hundreds of gallons of craft home brew in a family garage. TUPPS’ co-founder, Keith Lewis, shares, “After many years in corporate America, we made the decision to turn a passion into a business. We are a small, family-owned (two families, actually) brewery, and our goal is to make great tasting beer and provide an amazing place to hang out.” Marketing and events extraordinaire Katie Baker is optimistic about the direction the craft brewery sect is moving in. She shares, “Craft breweries are taking off and people are curious about trying new beer and going on tours. TUPPS is a fun place to hang out with friends or family and listen to some live music and, overall, to do something different and learn something new!” TUPPS hosts tours every Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and has live music from 1-4 p.m. with a selection of foods on site. “It is open, relaxed, super-friendly and just a good place to be,” says a frequent patron of the brewery.

If you’re looking for an all out adventure in culture, head south for an unforgettable experience at Deep Ellum Brewing Company. Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s Zach Fickey says, “We were the first brewery to arrive in Dallas proper in more than a decade. As a real melting pot, Deep Ellum is the most culturally significant neighborhood in Dallas. Based in the legendary blues-born and rock-raised urban district that Deep Ellum is, our trend-setting brewery creates smooth and assertive craft beers worthy of the area’s eclectic heritage. Since the company’s founding in 2011, it has crafted an award-winning roster of year-round, seasonal and limited-release brews. It is a landmark — a spot on the map where your favorite IPA or pale ale is brewed. Once you have arrived, you get to see the beautiful view of a brew house and dozens of stainless steel fermenters, where it all begins. You get a brew tour and a few pints of the freshest beer in market.” The brewery keeps its community close to heart and entertained by hosting events throughout the year like their Brew-BQ on Memorial Day weekend and their Labor of Love event over Labor Day weekend. In addition to iconic events, the brewery also hosts charity fundraisers for nonprofits like dog rescues, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) research and World Water Day.

Denton is known as a hub for awesome live music and unique places to enjoy a cold beer.
At Audacity Brew House, at least one brand new beer recipe is created for the public every month. The brewery hosts a variety of community events, and recently, the brewery teamed up with St. David of Wales for a Chili Cookoff event! Twenty teams competed for the prize while hanging out in the midst of a large supply of delicious beer. Audacity Brew House tours are offered on Saturdays at 3 p.m. There is also live music on Saturdays from 4-6 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. and open mic night on Thursdays at 7 p.m. On Wednesdays, patrons can enjoy discounted beer and there is even an awesome Karma Yoga class hosted on site every Sunday at 10 a.m. Not only does this spot offer its own take on local, tasty brews, but it is a wonderful place to gather with friends and neighbors!

Garland’s Lakewood Brewing Company promises that whether you are a veteran or a newcomer to craft beer, they will have something for you. In addition to attending or sponsoring most big craft beer festivals around the metroplex, the company celebrates their anniversary every August by releasing that current year’s Lion’s Share, a barrel-aged beer that is always different. In October, Lakewood hosts its annual “Let’s Get Weird” Halloween party, where they release limited and small batch beers from their cellar. They also annually celebrate the Bourbon Barrel Temptress release in December, which is one of Texas’ most sought after beers. Craig Bradley shares, “There is just so much excitement about beer in our region. When we started just a few years ago, the question when you walked into a bar was ‘do you have any local beer on tap?’ Now, it is ‘how many locals do you have on tap?’ That is a very big shift in a very small amount of time. People are excited about drinking fresh, locally made beer and we are excited to bring it to them!”

A bit further east is Rockwall’s first and only brewery, Woodcreek Brewing Company, which crafts a variety of seasonal and refreshing beers. For this team, Texas beer is not just a slogan, but a promise. Noah Cutshall, a company founder, says, “North Texas, and specifically Rockwall, has only recently begun experiencing the full effects of the craft beer invasion. Brewers are beginning to offer increasingly advanced beers to meet the ever-thirsty Texan palate. Additionally, we make every effort to involve our local community in many aspects of the brewery. We just recently hosted an Imperial Stout brewing competition for local home brewers. We had the opportunity to taste so many great beers and we invited the winners back to brew a 10bbl batch on our commercial system. That winning beer was released in our taproom this February!” The facility has yard games like carpet ball, beanbag toss and a giant Jenga® game! Woodcreek offers brewery tours twice on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and has live music from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. There are game nights every Thursday.

To take in the vast beauty of North Texas’ countryside, head west to Granbury’s Revolver Brewing. Owner Rhett Keisler explains, “We are in the country, so we have wide open space, our own water source and the extremely good fortune to have the talent and skills of our master brewer and cicerone, Grant Wood.” Mr. Keisler says the best part of owning a brewery in North Texas is the climate, the proximity to such a large population and the wonderfully loyal nature of Texans. Every weekend, Revolver opens its gates from noon to 3 p.m. for visitors to enjoy live music, a tour given by a genius brewer, food, games and plenty of beer for sampling. Mr. Keisler adds, “The event is also very family-friendly, and we have plenty of picnic tables and space to accommodate groups of any size.” Visiting breweries is a year-round hobby and adventure as the beers change with the seasons. “Winter and early spring are conducive to certain beers brewed especially for those seasons, which people look forward to all year. It is also just a great time to get out, be a part of the scene, support local business and hopefully enjoy some nice weather in the process,” he says.

New to Craft Brew? Here is What to Know …

Admittedly, craft beer is a culture of its own — one that can be intimidating if you have never ventured out of your Bud Light or Miller Light comfort zone. Not to worry! Brew masters have plenty of advice to make your adventure one that is not only palatable, but full of discovery and flavor.

How are these specialty beers any different from those domestic and imported beers we are all such fans of? Mr. Fickey explains, “Craft beer is brewed by people living in our neighborhoods. We use fresh ingredients, locally farmed ingredients, along with unique and awe-inspiring ingredients, like organic coco nibs, cherries, tangerine peels, biscotti and so much more.” He advises, “Do not be intimidated. Start by asking for samples at your local pub. Ask yourself what sounds good and go try it. Drink a pint and allow your palate to appreciate the complexities of the beer. It might take a few sips.”

Craft beer is defined by a brewery making less than six million barrels of beer (a barrel is equal to two kegs), being independently-owned and using traditional, high-quality ingredients. Bigger breweries use rice or corn sugars to get the alcohol without adding flavor. They are making beer on an industrial scale and local breweries are more like a local bakery, making beer by hand, in smaller batches.

Mr. Bradley says the best method of learning about the science and art behind beer making is to go in with an open mind! “Work your way up. There are a lot of craft beers that you can transition into that will not make you run back to your fizzy, yellow macro beer. If you drink Coors/Miller/Bud, you are drinking a light, American lager. Lager beers tend to be simpler beers that only use a few ingredients. Some craft beers can use a lot of different malts, hops and ale yeast to create more complex flavors.”

Ms. Baker says she was just like anyone who is hesitant to try craft beer out of skepticism and lack of knowledge. “I only drank Bud Light, but then my family starting bringing more craft beers around the house. I really crave lots of flavor in my beer now. My advice would be to learn a little bit about the styles and try some here and there. Once you find a style you like, try different types, flavors and breweries. It is a fun process learning about the styles and figuring out what you like best!”

Mr. Keisler advises readers to ask the bartender for a “gateway beer,” which is usually lighter and easier to drink, like a wheat beer, a cream ale or amber. “Most newcomers want to wait to try anything that is high alcohol or extremely dark (which can be heavy on the palate) or very hoppy (which can be bitter),” he says.

Test Your Newly Acquired Knowledge

Little Elm Crafthouse is the perfect spot for experienced and novice craft beer drinkers. Their aim is to provide customers with the ultimate beer drinking experience, which starts with a beer made just for you by an artisan. Little Elm Crafthouse ensures that your beer is poured properly, the appropriate glassware is used and that beer is served at the perfect temperature. They offer craft beer in flights, pints and growlers (an air-tight jug, typically made out of glass, ceramic or stainless steel, that allows you to take draft beer from one place to another without a degradation of quality), a tasting room, pairing events, pint nights and even brewery collaborations.

Lone Star Taps and Caps, a bottle shop owned by a Lewisville father and son duo, boasts 50 different taps of craft beers and ciders from all over the world. Customers can get fresh beer on site or to go, and can create their own personalized beer package with choices from more than 500 unique cold cans. Taps and Caps offers growlers, pints, flights, packaged beer and more.

What better way to celebrate craft beer than to accompany a beverage with great food? Our area is bursting with popular restaurants that offer choices of craft beer, a lot of which are local! Little Elm’s Tower’s Tap House is an Austin-inspired beer garden that offers tasty American cuisine in a casual setting. It boasts 16 beers on tap, including a wide variety of local, craft beers. Eight 11, a cozy wine bar in downtown Frisco, also boasts a great selection of craft beers from Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Revolver Brewing and Lakewood Brewing Company, along with their flatbread pizzas, salads and other favorite menu items. Other Frisco restaurants that serve craft beer include The Londoner, which boasts American and British cuisine items, and 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House, which offers some seriously tasty barbecue to go with their beers on tap.

Not a Beer Fan? Not to Worry!

Taking a short drive north to the town of Celina will land you in a wine paradise otherwise known as Eden Hill Vineyard and Winery. This winery is entirely family-owned and dedicated to producing quality Texas wines from Texas grapes. Eden Hill’s Linda Hornbacker shares, “As a family, we use all our skills and talents to bring a special wine experience to our customers. Whether taking a walk through our vineyard, enjoying the rolling hills of our country setting or sitting down for wine tasting, we want everyone to appreciate the wonderful wines Texas can produce. All our wines are made from estate, local and West Texas grapes.” She continues, “We planted our Tempranillo and Orange Muscat grapes in 2008 and opened the winery in 2010.”

Eden Hill offers an indoor space for meetings and parties of up to 60 guests, special wine dinners and tours by appointment. Mrs. Hornbaker admits that late winter and spring are quiet times in the vineyard, yet it is interesting to see how the vines are pruned and watch the new shoots bud and produce the new year’s blossoms and fruit. She clarifies, “Of course, any time of the year is a great time to enjoy a good glass of wine! One of the great rewards of being in the winery business is meeting so many wonderful guests. Wine can be intimidating on several levels: pairing selections, price, pronunciation and knowledge. It is really important to help people feel confident about approaching wine and to enjoy the adventure of trying new varietals.”

Eden Hill’s tasting room and wine store is open from Thursday through Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Guests can taste the wine, walk the vineyard and gardens and even visit the chickens!

In historic downtown McKinney, the concept of Texas wine tasting is made big. Located just off of the square, visitors will find Lone Star Wine Cellars, a popular and unique destination nestled inside the Old Ritz Theatre Building. This winery uses only French Oak barrels and ages their wines for many years. If you have sampled various types of wines, you know that when wine is handcrafted, it is telling in its flavor and boldness. At Lone Star Wine Cellars, you can learn about the science behind producing wine and taste different kinds of Texas blends. You may even want to listen to live music at happy hour.

Other notable wineries in North Texas are Mitas Hill Vineyard in McKinney, Farina’s Winery and Café in Grapevine and 96 West Winery in Wylie. With summer right around the corner, why not indulge and support local businesses that bring this hobby to life for avid wine drinkers?

Become a Wine Expert!

When trying any fine wine, it is important to consider the wine’s temperature, your setting and accompanying smells that may take away from the taste of your drink. Impress your fellow diners with a few wine tasting tricks!

Fill the glass no more than 1/3 of the way full. Start by looking straight down at the glass, then hold it to the light and give it a tilt, so the wine rolls to the edges of the glass. This allows you to see the full color range, exposing the wine’s density and saturation. Viewing the wine through a tilted or side view helps the drinker determine the clarity, age and weight of the mixture. If the color looks watery near its edge, you may be drinking a thin wine. If the color looks brown (in white wine) or orange (in red wine), it could be exposing an older age. Finally, just like you have always seen in the movies, give your glass a good swirl. For beginners, it is important to swirl the glass while holding it firmly on a flat surface. Wines that have tears or “legs” have more alcohol and glycerin content, making them dense. Now, take a sniff! You can train your nose to pick up on good and bad wine flavors, including fruits and other scents that will help you understand the ingredients.

DIY Time

Many local establishments started making beer in their own homes before venturing into the corporate/business world. Brewing with malt extract is a starting point for new home brewers, and the process requires minimal equipment. Brenden Stubblefield of Stubby’s Texas Brewing, Inc. assures, “If you can boil water, you can make beer. It is super easy once you get the equipment, and it is really inexpensive to get started.” He says sanitation is the No. 1 most important thing.

To complete a home brew, you need a heat source (kitchen stove), a 1.5 to 5-gallon pot, a long stirring spoon, a measuring cup, a can opener, a strainer, a thermometer, unscented dish cleaner, sanitizer, a fermenter (large plastic bucket), an airlock, a bung (secures the airlock), a racking cane (transfers beer), a bottling bucket, a bottle filler, a bottle brush, bottles, caps and a bottle capper. Follow these steps for a successful and tasty home brew of your own!

  • Using unscented cleanser, clean your brewing equipment.
  • Bring one gallon of water to a boil in your pot. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the malt extract (make sure it does not collect on the bottom of the pot). Stir until it is completely dissolved then return the liquid to a boil.
  • Add the bittering hop. Any equipment that comes into contact with the wort (unfermented liquid that turns into beer) after the boil must be sanitized to prevent spoiling.
  • After the 30-minute boil is complete, you have created wort. Fill the sanitized fermenter half way with cold water. Add the hot wort after it has sat for five minutes. Fill the fermenter with cool water (to reach five gallons) and allow the wort to sit until it drops in temperature to 70-75 degrees.
  • Sanitize your yeast package and add (pitch) the yeast. Use a sanitized airlock and bung to seal the fermenter. Give the fermenter a vigorous shake for a minute or two, to provide oxygen to the yeast. During the next one to two weeks, the yeast will be converting fermentable sugars from the malt extract into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Pick a location that holds the temperature called for (may vary according to specific yeast), allows for minimal disturbance and prevents light exposure. Keep the fermenter within the 65 to 75-degree range.
  • Signs of fermentation should be visible by the bubbling airlock after 12-72 hours. Use a hydrometer to assure that fermentation is complete. After three to four weeks in the fermenter, beer is ready for packaging! The yeast will ferment the sugar, creating carbon dioxide, which cannot escape the capped bottle and carbonates the beer.
  • Bring two cups of water to a boil. Add five ounces of priming sugar (dextrose) and boil for about 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the priming sugar solution to your sanitized bottling bucket. Transfer the beer from the fermenter into the bottling bucket.
  • Attach the bottle filler to the spigot of your bottling bucket with a small piece of tubing. Fill your sanitized bottles up to the neck. Cap the bottles with sanitized caps. Store the bottles in room temperature for carbonation to take place.

Whether you are out to broaden your knowledge of craft beer and Texas wines or you are interested in crafting your own beverages, Frisco is surrounded by all the places and resources you need to take on this new hobby responsibly! This industry deepens the pride North Texans have for their culture and creates wonderful beverages and experiences in the process. This is a unique way to learn something new or take on a new hobby this spring. Cheers!

Allie Spletter
Allie Spletter is a wannabe foodie and lover of all things pink and crafty.