Dallas as a Craft Beer Town

Something strange has occurred in Dallas during the past year, something not known since the mid-1990s when dot-com money flowed freely and commercial ventures were embraced recklessly and without long-term thought. Dallas is rediscovering craft beer—and making up for lost time in a big way. With no production breweries in Dallas at the beginning of last year, by the end of 2012 at least five are projected to be in full operation.

The last commercial brewery to operate in Dallas proper was the Great Grains Brewery, a terrible operation that mercifully shut down for financial reasons in 2006 over a rather trivial TABC regulation that left it unable to recover. Since that time, Rahr & Sons Brewing (opened 2004) has thrived in Fort Worth and Franconia Brewing (opened 2008) in McKinney but nothing in the Dallas area per se. The only non-chain brewing that has persisted within the city limits has been the Humperdinks brewpub on Greenville Avenue, an orphaned spin-off of the Pacific Northwest-based Big Horn Brewing franchise that went independent a few years ago.

To begin the charge, in October of last year the Deep Ellum Brewing Company became the first craft brewery to open in Dallas in more than five years, setting up in the south end of the Deep Ellum arts district. Owners Scott Frieling and John Reardon hired young brewer Drew Huerter away from the St Louis area, with names such as Schlafly and Mattingly Brewing on his resume. Their first beers have been style-twisting crowd pleasers, a crowd that has regularly mobbed the brewery ever since they opened Saturday tours to the public.

Almost immediately on the heels of Deep Ellum Brewing came Peticolas Brewing, setting up in a small place in an industrial park west of downtown near the Meddlesome Moth. With a legal family legacy in Dallas going back almost as long as there has been a city, Michael Peticolas left a career as a lawyer to pursue his dream of independent brewing. His is a much smaller and more personal operation than Deep Ellum, taking all financial, marketing and brewing responsibilities upon himself and his young family. Peticolas’s first beer was released in January of this year to almost immediate success.

The third in this initial triad to develop throughout the prior year is Lakewood Brewing, who only recently acquired a lease on a site in the White Rock Lake area. Although owner and brewer Wim Bens may have grown up in the Lakewood area of east Dallas, he did so with a Belgian birth certificate and a young enthusiasm for homebrewing. His previews of beers at various promotional events have been excellent, and Lakewood Brewing is expected to be in full production by late spring.

Two newcomers to the Dallas beer scene are also expected to be open later this year. From the common amateur brewing interest of three local friends (Jack Sparks, Brent Thompson and Kat Stevens), Reunion Brewing is born from the coincidence of these three reuniting once again in Dallas for business. Their production brewery is currently under development in west Dallas not too far from Peticolas’ current location.

The second new craft brewery will be Four Corners Brewing of the Oak Cliff area, also the venture of three partners with a shared passion. George Esquivel, Steve Porcari and Greg Leftwich have already hired award-winning veteran brewer John Sims for their operations, and have only recently located a commercial site. With hopes to be open by Labor Day and plans for as many as ten employees their first year, Four Corners may outpace all the rest despite a late start.

To see five production craft breweries sprout within the space of twelve months is simply unprecedented for a city like Dallas, more characteristic of the brewing culture of Austin. Is there room for all these businesses (plus those not yet named) to survive together in our North Texas market? Is the craft beer nature of Dallas truly shifting after all these years, embracing the movement as so many other cities have already? Only time can answer.

Originally published January 29, 2012, at craftbeerusa.blogspot.com.

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