Dallas Craft Beer Examiner
Texas is the center of the beer universe — well, our universe, at least for those of us who live here. Texans acknowledge that our adjoining sister states have breweries but we rarely give any thought to the more mainstream beer operations just over our state borders. (We also don’t acknowledge Colorado as a genuinely separate state and still claim it as “Far North Texas,” but that’s another discussion.)
Louisiana’s Abita Brewing enjoys the most notoriety from Texas consumers by virtue of wide distribution but, although just a few hundred miles distant, offerings from Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico rarely get our attention or any significant tap space. Tulsa’s Prairie Artisan Ales has probably had the most success recently with some of their more original farmhouse products, but we living under the Lone Star know more about Oklahoma’s infamous “3.2 laws” than about any of their breweries.
COOP The Big Friendly’s Trail to Texas
Style: Berlinerweisse with peaches
That is about to change as COOP Ale Works of Oklahoma City recently rolled into North Texas with planned events all over the Metroplex leading up to a prominent spot at Fort Worth’s Untapped Fest last week. They brought with them The Big Friendly, a modified school bus that is now a pub-on-wheels and rolling ambassador for the brand, parking at several Dallas and Fort Worth locations as they served beer samples and introduced the company to Texans.
COOP Ale Works began in 2009, part of the same fast-evolving craft beer movement taking place here and around the country. They went through a major facilities upgrade in 2014 that has allowed them to begin expanding into neighboring states, with North Texas their first market south of the Red River. Now one of the largest breweries operating in Oklahoma, their estimated output of 15,000 barrels this year puts them just behind Rahr & Sons Brewing in size and capacity. (Unrelated but at the same time, Rahr & Sons has just begun distribution out of state to Oklahoma.)
In celebration of their arrival, COOP brings with them a special release named The Big Friendly’s Trail to Texas, a peach-infused berlinerweisse style limited to only 3000 bottles. It is a kettle- soured beer, meaning a touch of Lactobacillus was added to the wort ahead of the yeast to begin developing some desired sour elements before primary fermentation, and then 10 bushels of fresh peaches were blended in for the finished corked-and-caged product.
Trail to Texas is a mild 4% ABV that pours a hazy light gold with a thin head that disappears too quickly and a very light sour nose with apparent but indistinct fruit, maybe mild citrus or melon. The flavor profile is very much a classic berlinerweisse, a light and refreshing wheat flavor with a touch of tartness. A faint peach element does emerge in the back of the swallow, subtle, just enough to let you know it’s there. I would have preferred a little more carbonation to give it more life on the palate but such is the nature sometimes with bottle conditioning.
Of course, COOP arrives in DFW with a half dozen or so of the more popular beers in their portfolio, including beers such as Alpha Hive, a double IPA with orange blossom honey, and several special twists on their standard DNR Belgian dark ale. With North Texas now COOP’s largest market outside of their home state, make sure they notice how thirsty Texans can be.
Availability: Trail to Texas may be difficult to find with such limited quantities, but COOP beers should now begin to appear on shelves and taps throughout North Texas.